Platform for Arts, Institute of Art Studies, BAS, did a series of exclusive interviews with this country’s leading artists and art historians about how does it feel to make art amid the coronavirus pandemic, about its impact on culture and long-term implications.
Stephan Komandarev is a Bulgarian film director/writer/producer. He studied medicine, then Film and TV Directing at NBU, Sofia He made a number of feature films and documentaries such as The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner (fic.); The Town of Badante Women (doc.); The Judgment (fic.); Directions (fic.); An Unnecessary Hero (doc.); His latest work was Rounds (fic.).
Q: What are you doing now in self-isolation at home? Are you making the best use of your time?
A: My family has been at a small house in Ravonogor village, in the Rhodopes, for a month now. I basically watch films that I have missed or what is on the European Film Academy platform. I read and reread books, say, Camus’s The Plague, Dostoevsky.
Q: At what point of your work were you caught up in the COVID-19 crisis?
A: Two completed film projects, a documentary and a feature.
Q: How did the pandemic change your everyday life, professional agenda and decisions?
A: It changed particularly my plans for the documentary, as we were supposed to shoot our national team at the European Heart and Lung Transplant Games 2020, which had to be held in June, in Spain but was postponed over the pandemic.
Q: What smouldering problematic subjects surfaced as a result of self-isolation and with all cultural activities across Bulgaria and the world cancelled?
A: Lots of them: poor public health system and defectiveness of turning hospitals into commercial businesses; deepening the gap between the haves and have-nots; extreme trends, both political and religious, emerged. Given the support provided for creative and cultural industries by the other European countries, in this country such support is insufficient and not meant to offer real assistance.
Q: Your opinion about the impact on creative quests?
A: Tragic. We face a great risk of losing the achievements that have cost us dearly: independent artists, festivals, publishing, a working film industry, etc. Most vulnerable are the participants in this process left with no income for months.
Q: Where do you expect to get support in the declared state of emergency over Covid-19?
A: From colleagues and friends solely.
Q: What about the therapeutic role of art in the resocialization after the pandemic ends?
A: Art can help us keep the human touch and overcome our fears.
Q: Any ideas about how to resume this country’s cultural activities after the end of the pandemic?
A: The recovery will be slow and painful. Fear will keep people out of theatres and cinemas for a long time …