At the open-air Snow-Sledding Slope cinema in the idyllic Petehovec, the audience gathered for the screening of the acclaimed and award-winning drama Blaga’s Lessons experienced a pleasant surprise. The organizers used the occasion to present the first award at this year’s new location of Cinehill film festival. It was the FIPRESCI Critics’ Jury Award, the oldest European association of film critics.
Blaga’s Lessons is the latest work by esteemed Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev, about a retired teacher who loses her life savings due to a scam and, in the absence of other options, accepts an offer for a suspicious job. The film received numerous awards at the prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Along with the Crystal Globe for Best Film and the Ecumenical Jury Award, the lead actress Eli Skocheva, in her first acting role after a thirty-year break, won the Best Actress award.
The jury members, Léa Ortuna, Thierry Verhoeven, and Veronika K. Zajdel, were introduced by the selector and critic Jurica Pavičić, who presented the award to the film’s producer, Katya Trichkova, with the following explanation:
“What does a very principled character do when faced with a desperate situation? Blaga’s Lessons offers an interesting answer. The main character is a strict teacher who doesn’t tolerate mistakes, neither in the language she teaches nor in her own life. When she becomes a victim of a situation that people of her age often encounter, she starts looking for a way out. However, society turns a blind eye, and her methods become more drastic. The film tells a touching story that intrigues from beginning to end, with some well-executed surprises. Instead of the expected story of endless misery, we have a strong woman trying to take control of her destiny but, in the process, losing more than anyone should ever be willing to sacrifice – her humanity.”
Upon receiving the recognition, producer Katya Trichkova addressed the audience and expressed her excitement about the screening. The Cinehill audience was the first audience to have the opportunity to see this valuable film after its world premiere in Karlovy Vary, even before the Bulgarian audience. Trichkova particularly highlighted Eli Skocheva’s performance, which was compared to acting legends Ingrid Bergman and Simone Signoret by the Hollywood Reporter magazine. She thanked the audience and let them enjoy the film.
The award ceremony was preceded by a series of fun daytime events, and in one of them, Haircuts For the Bravehearts, Trychkova herself participated. This challenge took place in anticipation of the screening of the quirky detective-hairstyling whodunit Medusa Deluxe, and it offered a free haircut service with one twist – the choice of hairstyle was left to the specialist Damjana Darišić, known for creating crazy hairstyles in the wildest places.
The main festival award, the Cinehill Propeller, will be presented on Saturday, July 29, thus closing the first edition of the renewed Cinehill festival.