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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Kristina Grozeva (‘The Lesson’)

TIFF Women Directors: Meet Kristina Grozeva ('The Lesson')

Kristina Grozeva was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in1976. She graduated from the National Academy for Theater and Film Art with a degree in Film Directing. She and her co-director Petar Valchanov make their feature-film debut with The Lesson, in which an honest, hardworking schoolteacher and mother in a small Bulgarian town must grapple with moral choices in a desperate attempt to avoid losing her house and family. (Press materials)

The Lesson will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 4 and have repeat screenings on September 5 and 13.

WaH: Please give
us your description of the film playing.

KG: A story of quiet, desperate revolt by a little
person against the system and the mercantile, soulless, and cynical world we
live in.

WaH: What drew you to this story?

KG: When we read the newspaper headline “Teacher robbed a
bank!” we thought this was a tagline for a film. It was precisely the cotradiction
within this phrase that made us look behind the tabloid sensation. This event left a deep trace in us. And some years later, we hadn’t forgotten it; we
continued to ask ourselves: What
makes a decent person become a criminal?

WaH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

KG: The film didn’t receive production
funding from the Bulgarian Film Center, just like our previous film, “Jump” (which
went on to receive numerous awards at festivals and was nominated for the
European Film Awards last year). Both films we financed ourselves, looking for
private investors willing to risk their money. We are truly thankful to
the cast and crew, who were fully devoted to the filmmaking process despite the
minimal time we had for the shooting, and the difficult conditions we were
working in due to our microbudget. 

WaH: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the

KG: We’d like people to start thinking about how the black
is not always black nor is the white always white. The world is already very
messed up and it’s hard to tell the bad from the good, the right from the
wrong.  And people have to
think more about these problems, in order not to get completely lost.   

WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?

KG: To be themselves and tell real stories that really
excite them. And never let the DoP take over.

WaH: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your

KG: It’s very difficult to explain to your relatives why
you’re making films and how you’re surviving from it in Bulgaria.

WaH: How did you get your film funded?

KG: This is an independent micro-budget film. We were able to realize this film thanks to many friends who believed in our
ideas and helped us.

WaH: Name your favorite women directed film and why.

KG: Red Road and Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold because of the
deep feeling and authentic narrative.

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