Interviewees - Jordan Opitz, Marin Markovski, Elijah Tsotsin, Vladimir Mindov and Nikolay Stefanov
Reenactment Cast - Anton Nikolov, Nikolay Yonchev and Dimitar Chavdarov
It's not often that I get offered the chance to check out Bulgarian documentaries, but such was the case when producer Robin Chambers dropped me an e-mail offering the chance to check out director Teodor Todorov's insightful and thought-provoking feature documentary A Brush Soaked in Carmine, an intimate examination of a controversial incident that divided the Bulgarian public when it happened in 2007.
It was in 2007 that Bulgarian iconographer Jordan Opitz fatally shot Marian Ianchev on a residential street in Sofia. Ianchev, a drug addict, was killed attempting to escape Opitz's apartment building - a place he had been suspected of robbing with his friend. "This documentary explores the context in which the shooting took place, the people that were involved in the incident and the controversy of Opitz's prison sentence. The film includes five interviews, the main one being with Opitz himself - conducted while he was still an inmate at Kazichene Prison - and uses reenactments to illustrate various elements of the story."
Todorov's documentary, which is getting set for an early October festival appearance, may lack the stylings of some films that attempt to balance the complex material with entertainment, but it excels in presenting a balanced and fair portrait of both sides of the story. Todorov's interviews give everyone ample time, an approach that at times feels like "talking head" yet is fascinating in its depth and in the way it examines a culture likely unfamiliar to most Americans.
The film utilizes interviews, archival materials and reenactments in telling the story. While reenactments can go wildly wrong, when used well they enhance the story and help bring it to life. Todorov uses it well.
If you are at all familiar with Sofia, and admittedly my own knowledge is fairly modest, you know that it's a city with a fairly significant drug problem and, as a result, all the behaviors by addicts that go with that drug problem. It's an interesting contrast, as Bulgaria tends to believe more in rehabilitation than criminalizaiton (as opposed to the U.S.). This film, perhaps indirectly, points out some of the challenges with that approach.
A Brush Soaked in Carmine has already been selected for the Two Cliffs Film Festival and the European Film Festival (Mainstream & Underground). With its unique mix of mesmerizing photography, including captures of Opitz's beautiful iconography, and a compelling story, A Brush Soaked in Carmine is definitely a film to catch if you get a chance.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic