The beginning of September marks the end of the high season at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Prices drop and you can finally breathe freely in the resorts. But not for long. From the first day that reductions are announced, the resorts become venues for a frenetic, in Bulgarian terms, range of cultural events, concerts, festivals, and awards.
Now you can see the fruits of the decision to merge the spheres of culture and tourism in one ministry. Last year, the ministry had big plans to equip the Palace in Balchik, the former summer residence of Marie of Romania, and the Botanical Garden with tennis courts and swimming pools. This year they decided to use them to accommodate the guests of the 4th International Short Film Festival. Lively, free, young, and rich, and that's just the programme, this festival has nothing in common with the Bulgarian establishment. Of the 800 participants and festival goers, the only ones over 30 were the members of the jury and the master class tutors.
For a week, Balchik was a hive of artistic expression. The programme began in a relaxed way at 12.30 pm to allow time for a long morning yawn over coffee. But once it started, you couldn't count on more than 10 minutes' break for a sandwich until it ended in the early hours with experimental films. Entrance was free, the films had English and Bulgarian subtitles, and the variety was exceptional. Bulgarian students' films are surprisingly original: laid-back, uninhibited, and full of potential - they are exactly like the people you meet there.
Crank Directed by Marc Neveldine and Brian Taylor Starring Jason Statham, Amy Smart Alexandra Films
It is encouraging that one of Hollywood's most underrated directors, Tony Scott (True Romance; Man on Fire; Domino), seems to have passionate and talented admirers. Writer/director duo Neveldine and Taylor bring their rich experience in commercials, cinema stunt work and special effects to their first movie. This is a breathtaking, brutal gem for lovers of true, ingenious action that pays homage to Tony Scott's whole arsenal of visual effects, from subtitles to four-way split screens, in its 87 minutes. The feverish journey of the hero, hitman Chev Chelios (Statham), through downtown Los Angeles is tracked using Google Earth maps. The former Olympic diver acts with typical British aloofness and remains surprisingly appealing, even when snorting cocaine from the floor of a public toilet.
Click Directed by Frank Coraci Starring Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken Alexandra Films
This year Adam Sandler marked his 40th birthday by returning to the subject of the family. Having played countless morons, he is here an up-and-coming architect (BBC reviewer Paul Arendt says he'd be more inclined to believe in Paris Hilton as a brain surgeon) with a pretty wife (Kate Beckinsale) and two sweet kids. Torn between his family and his job, he acquires a universal remote control which turns out to be a powerful gizmo. At the click of a button, he can relive his past, with the mute on or off, freeze the world, which he does to fart in his boss's face, or fast forward to skip boring events like a family dinner, quarrels or sex. The inevitable result is a film full of practical jokes and some telling lessons in life.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend Directed by Ivan Reitman Starring Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson Alexandra Films
Clean-cut, polite architect (Luke Wilson) meets plain girl (Uma Thurman). She turns out to make love like a battering ram, be, either moody as an adolescent or insanely jealous, and to be concealing the fact that she has another life as the superhero G-Girl. When he tries to extricate himself from their relationship, she punches a skylight in his ceiling. It is surprising how a film by the director of Ghostbusters, the writer of The Simpsons, and with such a promising cast can reach misogynistic heights unseen since Fatal Attraction in 1987. Only pubescence could be a sufficient excuse for this, and the fact that the entire team of writers and actors are aged between 40 and 60 is very disturbing.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers