Knowing a country involves more than visiting attractions and reading fun historical facts. Although Bulgarian filmmakers have been struggling after the democratic changes at the end of the 1980s, they have managed to produce memorable movies in all genres. Here are some of the most emblematic TV series and films produced by Bulgarians you should watch to better understand Bulgarian culture.
The Bulgarian First Lady wants to organize an elegant dinner in London to celebrate Bulgaria’s joining the European Union, and that’s the special mission of the new Bulgarian ambassador in London. The comedy following a series of tiny mistakes turn the elegant dinner into a complete disaster. The movie Mission London (Мисия Лондон/Misiya London) is based on the novel with the same name by Alek Popov.
This movie tells the heartwarming story of a Bulgarian boy who managed to leave the country illegally with his family in the Communist era, finding their way around Europe. Later, when the boy is a young man living in Germany, his parents both die in a car accident on the way back to Bulgaria; he survives but suffers from amnesia. His grandfather comes from Bulgaria and they both cycle all the way from Germany to Bulgaria while trying to restore the boy’s memory. The film, based on the autobiographical book by Ilija Trojanow, has received more than 20 film festival awards.
Undercover (Под прикритие/Pod prikritie) is a TV series that tells the story of policeman Martin, who has to go undercover and become the right hand of the mafia boss Mihail ‘Dzharo’ Tudzharov. The five seasons of the series have gained immense popularity among Bulgarian audiences, although many have denounced the scenes of profanity, violence, and drug abuse. The TV series reflects the reality of the Bulgarian mafia in quite a realistic way, as one of the best criminal reporters in the country, Slavi Angelov, advised the team. The TV series was released on Netflix in 2014.
Balgar (Българ) is a satirical animated series created by Nedelcho Bogdanov. The four seasons explore local issues in a series of unexpected twists with the main character, Balgar. His outfit is designed in the style of traditional Bulgarian clothing from two centuries ago. Famous Bulgarian stars, like the RnB artists from Upsurt, appear in some of the series. In 2014, Balgar: The Movie was released in cinemas.
Blind Vaysha (Сляпат Вайша/Slyapata Vaysha) created a buzz in Bulgaria when it was nominated for an Oscar in the Short Animated Film category. The short film is inspired by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov’s short story describing the fate of a girl who could only see the past with one of her eyes and only see the future with the other, which made her blind for the present.
One of the best Bulgarian sitcoms from recent years, Condominium (Етажна собственост/Etazhna sobstvenost) tackles the delicate relations between the neighbors living in a large panel block of flats, a typical architectural leftover from the Soviet era. The characters have to maintain the fragile balance between friendship and hostility while handling the challenges of their everyday lives together.
If you want to see a classic Bulgarian film, you can safely start with the 1984 Dangerous Charm (Опасен чар/Opasen char). The main character is a crafty, charming gentleman who courts naïve women, only to take all of their money and disappear after that. He constantly changes his name and life story and puts himself and the people around him in hilarious situations. The charmer was played by all-time favorite Bulgarian comedy actor Todor Kolev (1939 – 2013).