The ninth edition of Cinelibri International Book-to-Film Festival (Cinelibri IFF), which annually selects and shows the most original adaptations of literary works, was held between October 6-29 in Sofia and six other locations in Bulgaria – Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo and Stara Zagora. With the motto “Metamorphoses”, the festival marked 140 years since the birth of Franz Kafka, one of the most significant and influential figures in the literature of the 20th century, author of the emblematic novella “The Metamorphosis”, first published in 1915 and reprinted worldwide to this day.
The grand opening ceremony took place on October 6th in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. Maestro Zhivko Petrov, one of the greatest Bulgarian jazz musicians, played a nocturne by Chopin, Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major – symbolic start of the ninth edition. Spectacular animation accompanied the musical performance, transporting the viewers into the world of books and cinema with an emphasis on the metamorphoses of literary characters and plots on the big screen. After that Jacqueline Wagenstein, founder and director of the festival, took the stage in order to welcome the audience. The highlight of the evening was the pre-premiere screening of “Poor Things” – undoubtedly one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year – directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and based on the 1992 novel of the same name authored by the great Scottish writer Alasdair Gray.
Viewers and guests of Cinelibri 2023 had access to more than 60 film productions and co-productions awarded at Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, San Sebastian and other festivals. The genre-stylistic and thematic diversity of films, traditionally divided into several sections, was impressive. Each of the selected film titles was an example of ingenuity and courage in “translating” the respective literary work into the language of cinema. The latest festival edition covered 3 international competitions: best feature film, best documentary, best short film. For the first time this year there was a „Cinema with a Cause“ section which presented films dealing with current topics – an unequivocal testimony that modern filmmakers on a global scale are unable to remain indifferent against the background of disturbing trends and “metamorphoses” in all spheres of life. Besides, dozens of side events, discussions, celebrations, workshops and, of course, public meetings with world-famous guests and Jury members were held.
International full-length feature film competition program encompassed 10 titles. Among them was the extraordinary Spanish romance drama “Un Amor” (“One Love”) based on a bestselling novel by Sara Mesa. Directed by Isabel Coixet, the film won the Cinelibri Best Book-to-Film Adaptation Award 2023. The esteemed Jury of Cinelibri competition for a full-length feature film based on work of literature this year was presented by: William Baldwin (actor, producer, writer), Léa Todorov (director and screenwriter), Bruno Rosato (casting director and producer), Carla Nieto (actress), Ivan Burnev (actor). William Baldwin presided the Jury. Apart from the Jury members numerous amazing creators arrived in Sofia for “live” presentations of their films and books. Among them was Mike Downey, Irish-British film producer, writer, screenwriter, publicist and university lecturer, president of the European Film Academy and Honorary Chairman of the LUX Audience European Film Award.
Except the opening ceremony on October 6th, another festive film premiere in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia took place on October 20th, immediately after the Grand Awarding Ceremony was held. The film premiere took place on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the birth of the indisputable master of literary adaptations for the big screen – Roman Polanski. Spectators in Hall 1 watched his latest film, though not based on work of literature – the grotesque black comedy “The Palace” (2023) written by Ewa Piaskowska and Jerzy Skolimowski.
Cinelibri International documentary competition presented five titles listed below. “Anselm” by Wim Wenders was awarded the grand prize by the Jury presented by Bulgarian directors, producers and experts in the field of documentaries: Borislav Kolev, Tonislav Hristov and Bilyana Kirilova. Within the International short film competition eight titles had nominations. A Jury consisting of Georgi Ivanov, Daria Simeonova and Zornitsa Asparukhova awarded the prize to the short film “Theatrical Romance” directed by Teodora-Kosara Popova. The award ceremony and screening of the nominated films took place on October 28 at Euro Cinema.
Traditionally, the parallel program comprised a series of Gala Evenings of different cultures. Supported by the embassies and cultural institutes of the respective countries, these events brought together film experts, literary critics and diplomats of Poland, Finland, Romania, Czech Republic, Portugal, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Hungary, Japan. As part of the educational module, a two-day cycle of lectures was held. During the first day, the semiotic aspects of the transformations of literary texts into film scripts were discussed. The second set of lectures was devoted to current trends in film distribution and promotion of films based on literary works.