A Dark Moment of Faith won the Special Jury Prize plus three YDA golds, in Film School, Charity and Short Film.
Zornitsa Dimitrova took this year’s competition by storm. Here she explains the genesis of the project and her plans for the future.
What was your route into directing?
I studied media studies almost by chance and really enjoyed writing film analysis, as far as my German back then allowed it. A professor of mine was once interviewing the cinematographer Renato Berta. He had thoroughly analysed his work and had those theories about why things were done the way they were. When asked about whether those observations were correct, Renato Berta just said: “You interpreted all this in my work? We were actually just goofing around”.
This was a turning point for me. I thought: “That’s what I want to do!” Of course, this playfulness had barely anything to do with academic writing at a university, so I naturally went from analysing other people’s work to doing my own. In a way, I got the best of both worlds, because I learned how to combine theoretical knowledge with gut feeling. This is my go-to approach for every kind of film, no matter if it’s a commercial, a film or a documentary.
What was the inspiration behind A Dark Moment of Faith?
Originally, A Dark Moment of Faith was the name of a poem I wrote years ago. It’s about the constant alternation between trust and disappointment, when it comes to love. Later on, a friend of mine started working for an NGO, which was taking care of victims of sex trafficking, and that is how I initially got in touch with the subject. I discovered so many disturbing stories. The common denominator was how every single one of those women felt the moment they realised what’s happening to them: disappointed, deceived and betrayed.
This is what the poem was about and this is how I wanted the audience to feel at the end of the film, so it all fell into place by combining all those components. To cut a long story short, A Dark Moment of Faith is based on true events by narrations of real victims and it is a tragic romance transferred into a political context.
Winning the Special Jury Award, with a unanimous jury vote, is something I never even remotely dared dreaming of. On the 8th of July 2021, I screamed a lot in front of my computer.
How long was the shoot for it and what was the most challenging aspect of the project?
The film was shot in five, very generously planned shooting days. Since we were using only natural light, it had to be that way. We were a very small team. We shot super-early in the morning and had those extra-long lunch breaks every day, waiting for the sun to set again. And when the light was gone, we went home.
I wrote the script in two nights. We prepared everything in less than two weeks because of the corona uncertainty hanging over our heads. It was rather quick for a short film. If we had started shooting only a day later, we wouldn’t have been able to wrap it up before the first lockdown, back in 2020. Luckily, everything went very smoothly, so I wouldn’t say there were challenging aspects. Working on the project was very fulfilling, because we were free. It’s one of my favourite set experiences so far.
Fun story: while we were shooting the last scene, which is also the last scene in the film, the police came by and told us to piss off (literally) because they had just announced the lockdown in Bulgaria. We were waiting for the blue hour and they told us to be gone in 15 minutes. This was truly the only time my heart skipped a beat. We shot the last scene in 15 minutes (in the setting sun), expecting them to come back. They never did. So, we shot the scene one more time during the blue hour.
What have you learnt during the process of making the film?
First of all, I was once again reminded how important it is to rely on my instincts. Because we produced the film so quickly, not everything could be considered carefully. Sometimes it had to be a yes or no decision and it had to happen right away. Secondly, through this project I also noticed that I felt comfortable with a longer running time, which is interesting, because I had been explicitly studying directing for advertising. I am definitely going tо further explore longer narratives.
What does it mean to you to win a YDA and what can we expect to see from you in future?
Winning at YDA was insane. Winning three Gold Screen awards was already a great honour. Winning the Special Jury Award, with a unanimous jury vote, is something I never even remotely dared dreaming of. On the 8th of July 2021, I screamed a lot in front of my computer. As for the future, you can expect a little bit of everything! I’d love to work internationally, to shoot bigger projects, to get my hands on cool scripts, to write and shoot passion projects whenever I have the time. I’m quite excited to see what the future holds myself!
Do you plan to work in advertising?
I definitely plan to continue working in advertising, first of all because of the frequency of projects; I am happiest on set and can’t stand it when I don’t have anything in the pipeline. I also like the way every project needs a unique approach. You use the same set of skills, but never in the same way. It never gets boring.
And last, but not least, when you have the trust of the agency and the client, and the full support of the production company, that’s when it’s really fun. Being aware everybody is in the same boat is what leads to great projects. I hope to have more of that in the future.
Interview by Joel Meadows shots