Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov: This situation makes it clear that people are thirsty for art and culture


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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.

Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov studied Film and TV Directing at NATFA, Sofia. Their debut short Jump won many awards including Grand Prix, Short IFF, Brussels and Best Film Award, Busan IFF. Their feature debut The Lesson won over 30 international awards. Their award-winning sophomore feature Glory was Bulgaria’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award 2017. They made The Blue Birds Island TV series and the Bulgarian premiere of their The Father (Crystal Globe for Best Film, Karlovy Vary 19 ) is upcoming.

Q: What are you doing now during self-isolation at home? Are you making the best use of your time?

A: We are doing what we wanted to do but never hand time in the hustle and bustle of everyday life: rewatching old movies, watching new films, which we have missed and are catching up now; reading and rereading books, watching and listening to concerts.

Yesterday, for example, we spent two hours listening to Rachmaninov’s Prelude No. 5 in G minor, Op. 23 played by Yuja Wang, Valentina Lisitsa, Evgeny Kissin and Lang Lang, wondering whose performance we liked best. For the time being we arrived at the conclusion that Yuja Wang and Lang Lang’s play was the most powerful and impactive… Were it not for the lockdown, we’d hardly carve out time for this.

Q: At what point of your work were you caught up in the COVID-19 crisis?

A: On the eve of the Bulgarian premiere of our latest feature The Father.

Q: How did the pandemic change your everyday life, professional agenda and decisions?

A: The premiere was cancelled, of course, but with lots of newfound free time on our hands we brought back an old idea of ours and now we are one new screenplay ahead of the curve.

Q: Do you have a room of your own to work in or you find it difficult to isolate yourself, taking care of young children or students?

A: We isolated ourselves in the country, which along with the creative work prompts us to take to farming activities and we find it very exciting and delightful. 

Q: What smouldering problematic subjects surfaced as a result of self-isolation and with all activities across Bulgaria and the world cancelled?

A: The subjects of freedom, of responsibility, of the meaning of life for that matter. Were we freer before than now, for example? And what is freedom after all? Going wherever you want? Working nine to five? Or devote time to yourself, you thoughts, exploring your inner worlds?

Q: Your opinion about the impact on creative and research quests and the long-term implications?

A: It depends on the artists and researchers themselves to a great extent. We opt to regard the present developments as an opportunity, rather than as restrictions. We even think that this situation is quite beneficial for some of the creative processes, giving a chance of looking inwards, of contemplation and time to rethink. It is useful.

Q: Where do you expect to get support in the declared state of emergency over Covid-19?

A: Nowhere.

Q: What about the therapeutic role of art in the resocialization after the pandemic ends?

A: Reading fiction, watching films, listening to music, looking at paintings has always had a therapeutic effect, helping to develop your personality and better understand the world and ourselves. So, art always helps. In this situation too. We believe that art will help people ever after.

Q: Any ideas about how to resume this country’s cultural activities after the end of the pandemic?

A: This situation makes it clear that people are thirsty for art and culture as they are not needless in our life; quite the contrary, they give meaning. We think that this crisis may turn out to be very helpful in rethinking the values and awareness of the things that really matter. We believe that with lifting the lockdown cultural activities will resume by themselves. Theatres, opera houses and art galleries will reopen and see much higher attendance than before. We are joking that timelines will no longer be divided into BC and AD, but into before and after the Covid-19. So, this is a historical turning point and the society will hopefully find catharsis as it is with good dramaturgy.

Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov: This situation makes it clear that people are thirsty for art and culture

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