Karlovy Vary film festival East of the West competition Seamstresses

By Pavlina Jeleva

    Accomplished as a fiction author and theatre director, Ludmil Todorov once again proved himself one of Bulgaria's leading film directors with his realistic take on unemployment through the female point of view in Seamstresses. Inspired by personal experience, Todorov wrote the script several years ago, after renting his own apartment to a young provincial woman hoping to find work as a seamstress.

    Based on her story Todorov imagined three different characters in their early twenties in a desperate search for jobs, disillusioned by the cruelties of urban life.

    The female answer to his earlier male-dominated and post-Communist popular success Emigrants (Golden Rose at the Varna NFF in 2002 and audience award at the Sofia IFF 2003), Seamstresses also became an audience darling. Although theatrical viewers never exceeded 10,000, the film had a very positive reception. The Bulgarian distribution company blamed low admissions not on the film itself, but on the restricted number of cinema halls in the country. On the other hand, when broadcast by Bulgarian National Television in May, the film drew over a million viewers, in part because it received the award for Best Film of 2007 and seven other prestigious prizes from the National Film Centre and the Union of the Bulgarian Film Makers. Adding to it popularity was the wide search for unknown actresses, with nearly 200 hopefuls auditioning.

    Seamstresses reaffirmed Todorov's ability to get prizes. In 1990 The Love Summer of a Schlepp won the Turin IFF Grand Prix, in 1996 Emily's Friend's took the Thessaloniki IFF FIPRESCI award, and in 2002 Emigrants grabbed the Varna Golden Rose.

    It took over two years to raise the film's €430,000 budget. Todorov partnered with first time production company Crosspoint, whose co-owners Petya Braykova,Vlado Shishkov and Brayko Braykov are painters. After gathering support from the National Film Center and Bulgarian National Television (as co-producer), Crosspoint needed only six additional months to start the film.

    The nationally recognized art designer Georgy Todotov (Jozi) chose to shoot on location in a Sofia apartment. Preparing the actresses was also crucial. The three lived together and spent time visiting real locations around the city.

    The use of gently faded images in the film was decided step-by-step. Before shooting, Todorov envisioned the film in black and white. Eventually, after many discussions and laboratory tests, director of photography Emil Hristov created the delicate visual tonality of the film.