Story of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha looks like fairy tale, but it happened for real
Issue 68, May 2012
by Gergana Manolova
When Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha established his political party in 2001 and was subsequently elected prime minister of Bulgaria, most people did not see anything strange about that.
Many said he was simply regaining his rightful place as the de facto executive power in Bulgaria, after having been sent into exile in 1946, aged nine, when he was the king of Bulgaria.
The story of The Boy Who Was King resembles a fairy tale, but it is actually a documentary – the latest film by renowned Bulgarian director Andrey Paounov and experienced producer Martichka Bozhilova from AGITPROP. The documentary tells the fascinating story of Simeon II, one of the last living heads of state from the time of World War II. The life of the boy-king was marked by twists and turns of fate, starting with his exile after the Communists took power in Bulgaria. He outlasted the regime and returned to his native land to take up the burden of hopes and expectations that the nation laid on him.
The people created the fairy tale, and Andrey Paounov acknowledges this in his film. The documentary is seen from their point of view – through talking about Simeon II they reveal their own hopes and dreams, the myth of a generation. The powerful narrative shows that it was the people who took the decision to give substance to the myth, and for what has been an experiment in democracy. Looking beyond the facts, the film explores the mechanics of self-manipulation, idealisation, branding and illusions.
The result is a portrait of a myth – the virtual monarch, the perfect king. Without taking sides or making propaganda, Andrey Paounov examines the mechanism of democracy and how dreams are made and sold. The Boy Who Was King is eventually about hope, love, faith, illusions and the amazing potwer of democracy to abuse our human weaknesses.
The skilful approach to the film comes from the long experience of Andrey Paounov, who already has two documentaries touring the film festivals – Georgi and the Butterflies (2004) and The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories (2007). Both were produced by Martichka Bozhilova, a recipient of the International Trailblazer Award, whose films also include Corridor #8, Concrete Pharaohs and Dad Made Dirty Movies.
An exclusive screening of The Boy Who Was King will be held on 15 June at Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia.
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