Gosheva was an oncology specialist forbidden to tell her patients they had
cancer. This is how medicine was
practiced in Bulgaria during the Soviet era.
It wasn’t pretty. Gosheva endured
the horrors of war and subsequent absurdities of Communist oppression, living
to tell the tale to her filmmaker grandson Youlian Tabakov in Tzvetanka (trailer here), which screens
again today as a selection of MoMA’s 2013 Documentary Fortnight.
in 1926 to a prosperous shop-owner, Gosheva’s family would carry the “Bourgeoisie”
label like an albatross during the Communist years. While she recalls vivid memories of the
bombings, her real experiences with terror began post-war when her father was
picked up for a “brief interrogation.”
Despite eventually having both parents branded class enemies and
sentenced to labor camps, Gosheva somehow was admitted to university. She wanted medical studies but was initially
accepted as an English student, which seems doubly ironic given her suspect
background, but that was how the Socialist system worked.
passed away in the late 2000’s, but she obviously left behind an extensive oral
history and some surprisingly playful footage (sometime bordering on the
surreal). Tabakov does not take a
traditional talking head approach.
Instead, he creates impressionistic imagery to accompany his grandmother’s
recollections. Sometimes they are rather
whimsical, but probably the most striking visual is the blood droplets turning
into a crimson rain (not unlike the original Shining trailer) that perfectly fit her discussion of the post-war
purges and show trials her parents were caught up in.
times, Tabakov really pushes the hipster envelope with his post-modern visual
style. However, he always gives Gosheva
her full say, which ultimately keeps the film grounded in reality. Viewers quickly learn to appreciate her
resiliency and keen powers of observation.
She makes no secret of her contempt for the so-called “former Communists,”
whom she calls out for deliberately undermining Bulgarian democracy. Bulgaria will miss her, even if most of her
countrymen do not realize it.
At least Tabakov has preserved her memory and
her spirit. His Tzvetanka might be a bit eccentric as eulogies go, but avoiding the
maudlin seems perfectly in keeping with its subject. Recommended for students of the Soviet era as
well as those fascinated by intensely personal family histories, Tzvetanka screens again this afternoon
(2/18) as part of MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight.
Labels: Bulgarian Cinema, DF '13, Documentary