Money for a Funeral
Writers: Magdelena Ilieva, Jonathan Heidelberger
Producer: Martichka Bozhilova (Agitprop)
Funding: Development funding from MEDIA – Creative Europe Programme, Bulgarian National Television – first place at debut film competition
Training and development: Berlinale Talent Project Market 2016, MIDPOINTIntensive at Karlovy Vary IFF 2016, Crossroads Co–production Forum at Thessaloniki IFF 2016, Sundance Screenwriters Lab 2017 – semifinalist
Magdelena Ilieva was born in Bulgaria and studied film directing in Bulgaria and at the NYU. During her studies she wrote and directed several short films which wereshown at international film festivals. After graduation, Magdelena worked a as producer, mostly privately funding a number of films: feature film The Lesson (2014) was awarded at San Sebastian, Warsaw, Tokyo, and became a LUX Prize finalist; short film The Son (2015) won the grand prize at Cottbus, while Jump (2012) was nominated for the EFA as well as being awarded in Brussels, Busan, and Clermont-Ferrand.
Magdelena has also worked as a journalist at the Bulgarian National State Radio and as producer at the national Bulgarian television, overseeing the production of TV drama series. She is the casting director for Bulgaria of the Golden Bear winner at Berlinale 2018 Touch Me Not. She has attended the Producers’ Network–Cannes 2, Berlinale and Sarajevo Talents, Rotterdam Film Lab, Berlinale Talent Project Market 2013 (where she pitched and won the ARTE prize) and 2016, and EAVE (European Audio-Visual Entrepreneurs) Producers Workshop. As of May 2016, she is EAVE’s national representative for Bulgaria. She owns production company Little Wing Productions, based out of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Bobby (35), a talkative funeral agent with a wide smile and a strong desire to help everybody, lives in his small hometown, trying to save his business in order to provide a better life for his family and convince his wife that they don’t have to emigrate. Anka (70) is a woman who believes that life has nothing more to offer and everything good is left in the past. Anka hires Bobby to organize her funeral, and with utter confidence knows the very date of her death: she only needs to find the necessary amount for her last goodbye.
Bobby, upon learning Anka has no terminal disease, assumes that she plans to commit suicide and befriends her in hopes of talking her out of it. He introduces Anka to his family and exploits her need of money to lure her into adventures he believes will show her the joys of life and how much she is needed right here, now. But he is surprised to find how much he needs Anka as well at this moment in his life, and by the friendship that develops between them.
But Anka’s resistance and her stubborn lack of faith in life and people, as well as Bobby’s own difficulties at the funeral agency as a result of town corruption, shake Bobby’s faith as well. Bobby’s efforts to save Anka and help everyone around him begin to fall apart and he begins to lose it too. Ultimately he must realize he cannot fight everything alone and that he must learn to trust life, especially in its least trustable moments—in order to receive the love and understanding he desperately needs.
Family and Friends is a story exploring the change in generations and the rapidly shifting landscape of Bulgaria during its ongoing difficult transition from communism to capitalism.
They say we “live together, die alone” (William Golding). Whether we like it or not, we are all in this life together.
Yet more and more we aren’t. Social relations, including friendly and family ones, under the pressure of amplifying alienation in the bureaucratic capitalism in Bulgaria after 1989, gradually became too cold for most people to have the capacity to confront reality in a human way. As a result, many left the country. Our population melted from 8.8 to 7.5 million between 1990 and 2013 thanks to the lowest life expectancy and the highest rate of emigration in Europe. The UN projects that by 2050 our population will fall to 5.5 million, the fastest rate of decrease for any country in the world (World Bank, 2016, report “Prospects for Golden Aging in Europe and Central Asia”).
Those who stayed find themselves more and more alone these days, especially when it comes to facing difficulties like loneliness and death. Communities, be it family or networks of friends, deal with hardships like death better than when people cope individually. But as society and families drift apart, the time spent bereaving those who have died diminishes. Thus we are forced to suppress our negative emotion, which only strengthens it and leads to a negative attitude towards death. And it’s not just death—negativity towards everything amplifies when we deal with difficulties alone. And this negativity slowly turns into lack of faith in our fellow humans, our country, and life in general.
That all being said… this film is intended to be the rebuttal to this negative situation, not just a documentation of it. I’m not saying that it will be a terribly happy film. But I want to make a film about one of the heroes of Bulgaria, and not an extraordinary guy by any means, or even a very extraordinary situation. Just a regular guy who succeeds in establishing a real connection with the people close to him, motivating love and attachment between them. A clear, human cry against soullessness and indifference. A film about a person who in the most unlikely situation confronts death in the face and finds faith in human beings and life, which helps him rise above a less than ideal situation, at least for a moment.