ISSN: 2241-6692

BLOG - Dina Iordanova

Dina Iordanova investigates matters related to the dynamics of the global film circulation, film festivals, and transnational cinema. An important aspect of her work is her interest in the cinema of the Balkans; she is the author of Cinema of Flames: Balkan Film, Culture and the Media (BFI), Emir Kusturica (BFI), and the editor of Cinema of the Balkans (Wallflower). She is Professor of Film Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as well as Director of the Centre for Film Studies.
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In the late 1980s I was still living in my native city of Sofia, blissfully unaware of the impending end of Zhivkov’s regime under which my life had evolved up until then and of the subsequent cosmopolitan émigré life that was in store for me. One day, friends came to talk about a text that was exposing Bulgaria’s “economy of jars.” There was some element of embarrassment in this -- we had been “found out” about a practice that was far too common and that we did not give much thought of. The author was a Western woman who had written about the habit of Bulgarians who would visit with her to bring along jars of self-preserved food and leave them as gifts. This was so persistent that over time she had built up surplus and had started taking jars to other friends herself. Thus, she had become part of Bulgaria’s “economy of jars,” one of us.

I never read the text at the time, so rudimentary was my English, so all I knew about it probably came from conversations. Today I can confirm that this was a study by Canadian anthropologist Eleanor Smollett, whose 1989 text “Economy of Jars” was published in Ethnologia Europea and is now available online. Smollett was wondering “what could be learned about contemporary Bulgarian society by tracing the movements of the thousands, nay millions, of jars of food that criss-cross the country? Who gives what kind and how many to whom on what kinds of occasions? What statements about relationships are built into these gifts? How much importance do these jars (and other gifts of food) have in the quantity and quality of a family's food consumption?” (1989: 127). ... More

I had the chance to see the Greek documentary KISMET (Nina Maria Paschalidou, 2013) courtesy of the professional platform, and found it of great interest for a wider community, so I thought to say a few things about it here.

On visits to my native country of Bulgaria in recent years I could not help noticing that a new cultural import, Turkish soap operas, has been changing the pattern of female viewing. My mother, an intellectual in her 80s, has made a series called FATMAGUL (Fatmagül'ün Suçu Ne?, 2010/2011) a staple in her daily routines — for a woman who would normally only watch concert performances of classical music, this was quite a change of habit. Then, going to visit friends in their village houses I observed that at certain times the streets go completely empty, and life comes to a standstill — the schedule of meals is adjusted around the schedule of the networks showing the Turkish soaps. When women get together the developments of the most recent episodes are a major topic for conversation. Last summer, in 2013, I crossed into neighbouring Serbia to learn during the visit to Novi Sad that the wife of my friend is also irretrievably addicted to a Turkish soap, THE MAGNIFICENT CENTURY in this instance. I can only compare this situation to the airing of the British TV series FORSYTE SAGA (1967) during my childhood — back then the streets would also go empty and mealtimes would be rearranged to fit the TV schedule. ... More

Can a story be told before it has happened?

When the first “Balkan Survey” sidebar was added to the structure of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, in November 1994, it was at a difficult time. The war in nearby Bosnia was at its peak, with the siege of Sarajevo having lasted already two and a half years, with no end in sight.

Some horrible things were happening at that distant moment in the former Yugoslav lands. It must have been around that time that Esma, a Muslim woman from Sarajevo, was violated in a camp, alongside many other women, and ended up pregnant with an unwanted child, one that she would chose to bear and then learn to love. Twelve years later, in 2006, this child – Sara, a daughter – would confront Esma in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica, demanding to know more of her origins. And Esma would need to face reality; the lie she maintained for years in order to ensure Sara’s wellbeing had to be dropped in favour of revealing the dreadful truth of her daughter’s origin.

Rapes were still being committed in Bosnia at the time of the first “Balkan Survey”. The men who perished at Srebrenica in 1995 were still alive.
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