– The exclusively Bulgarian feature film follows several characters invaded by the holiday spirit
Philip Avramov and Lyuben Chatalov in Uncle christmas
After a series of popular comedies, the most recent of which is Last call (winner of the Audience Award at the Golden Rose Film Festival 2020), Bulgarian director Ivaylo Penchev is in early post-production with his new ensemble tragicomedy, Uncle christmas. The film is directed by Penchev’s Cinemaq, in co-production with Bulgarian company Urban Media, represented by Stoyan Stoyanov. The team hope to be able to release the film in December.
The screenplay, written by Bojan Petrov, Penchev and Vesel Tsankov, focuses on various characters – for example, a man working as Santa Claus, a girl dreaming of walking again and a waitress taking care of her sick mother – who get involved in various tragicomic situations as they leave in pursuit of what they crave most, be it family, identity, forgiveness, love, compassion or friendship.
Uncle christmas has a budget of around 650,000 €, of which around 480,000 € comes from the Bulgarian National Film Center. The DoP of the film is Georgi Chelebiev, and the main characters are played by Philippe Avramov, Malin Krastev, Simona halacheva, Vasil Banov, Stefan Denolyubov, Svezhen Mladenov, Milena Avramova and Lyuben Chatalov. The film was shot in Sofia in December and January, but because the story needed snow during a snowless winter, it wasn’t able to complete the 36-day shoot until February.
Director Ivaylo Penchev told Cineuropa that filming was particularly stressful as the whole crew feared they had a positive case of COVID-19 among them. “Unfortunately that happened and we had to take a 14 day break. This naturally led to rescheduling the entire shoot and additional production costs. The number of days of filming for the comedians increased, then we had to change locations due to the closure of commercial sites [where the film was supposed to be shot] and hire an additional crew to cut traffic on the streets. In addition, we had to carry out daily disinfection of the filming sites before and after the work, and all these additional costs were incurred without any compensation ”, explains the director.
We also asked producer Stoyan Stoyanov about his previous collaboration with possible audience darling Penchev. Last call, what stars Maria bakalova, the Bulgarian actress who received Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for her appearance in Borat Post Moviefilm, instantly becoming the topic of conversation across the country. According to Stoyanov, Last call will wait for times when cinemas can be opened at full capacity, or at least at 50% capacity. After being closed for two weeks in March, theaters recently reopened at 30% capacity.