Transformations of Modernistic Concepts in Bulgarian Animation

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Nadezhda Marinchevska


Historically animation has been closely connected with the avant-garde movements of the 20s. Its abstract films strongly contributed to the avant-gardists eff orts to perform the ‘pure cinematic language’ (Cinéma Pur) and ‘visual music’.

The paper will analyze the impact of the avant-garde on Bulgarian animation. In the years of the totalitarian regime, the bravery to make a fi lm based on modernistic aesthetics was a gesture of revolt against the ideological restrictions. Bulgarian animation had its periods of a closer or more faraway play with avant-garde motifs and styles. During the totalitarian regime, it has never been claustrophobically enclosed in a kind of a local or ‘socialist-realistic’ framework. On the contrary, the modernistic graphics, often inspired by European models, provoked the boundaries of the unwritten censorship in the 1960s in the fi lms by Todor Dinov, Ivan Andonov, Stoyan Dukov, Ivan Veselinov, and many others. In the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s, the avant-garde fi lms by Anri Koulev and Nikolay Todorov more radically compared the Bulgarian cultural tradition with the Western European. In 1982, in ‘Bagpipe’ they even included direct visual quotations from Hieronymus Bosch, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí.

The contemporary Bulgarian animation, after a long period of overcoming a kind of identity crisis, which emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall, turned again to the European cultural heritage of the avant-garde. The new generations contribute with ease and lightness to neo-vanguard styles, feeling themselves citizens of the world. The works of Vessela Dantcheva, Ivan Bogdanov, Boris Despodov, Andrey Paounov, Velislava Gospodinova, Dimitar Dimitrov, Theodore Ushev and others will be outlined and discussed. Bulgarian animation endows neo-avant-garde aesthetics, which in some cases transforms into a postmodern mix of imagination, not underestimating the local values of the region. The new reincarnation of modernist styles and ideas in contemporary Bulgarian animation after 2009 is no
more a result of a rebellion against a censorship but a form of a free self-expression, realised with talent and inspiration. The numerous international awards and an ‘Oscar’ nomination are a proof of this new form of modernistic life in cinéma auteur.

Bulgarian Animation, Avant-Garde Aesthetics, Censorship, Visual Styles, Identity Crisis, Modern-Postmodern, Globalization
Published: Dec 20, 2021

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Film Studies