THE BUS TO AMERIKA (Turkey)
Writer-director Stefka Mancheva is a recent graduate in Film Directing from the New Bulgarian University. She completed her course of study in 2007, and spent the next ten years traveling the world — a roller-coaster adventure that took her to 14 countries on three continents. Last year, she returned to her alma mater and her first love — filmmaking, and completed her graduation film to obtain her final degree.
She’s preparing to shoot her short Creme Caramel, with which she participate in the New Arrivals: GoShort Campus 2018. Blind Spot will be her feature debut.
Little Yazidi boy Sefran lives in a refugee camp in Turkey. He likes watching the suburban bus he calls The Bus to Amerika pass by the camp and dreams of taking off on it to America to become a pop star. But mistakingly eating the forbidden vegetable of their religion one day turns his daydreams of America, into nightmares where he is chased by a monster lettuce.
Through the plots of a boy who likes Sefran’s girlfriend, news spreads among camp’s children. When kids start talking about how his family will be banished because of his sin, Sefran decides to leave the camp to save them. He runs away on the Bus to Amerika, which only takes him to downtown, where he finds the courage to own up to his sin and face his community.
The Bus to Amerika is a fictional story inspired by my experience of giving filmmaking workshops to children in refugee camps for Yazidis – an ancient ethno-religious group from Mesopotamia. During my work I learned that eating lettuce was a sin for Yazidis. I was deeply moved by one boy’s effort of trying to assure me that it was OK for me to eat it; it was about his belief, not mine…
Right next to Turkey’s borders, there is an endless war for power going on, hidden under the pretext of religion. While Turkey also becomes party to that fight, along with the violence inside the country, my constant feeling for a while has been that ‘I cannot breath’. At such a time, this little boy’s attitude felt like a breath of fresh air.
That boy’s gesture of respect constitutes the core issue of The Bus To Amerika. The story will be told from the perspective of the imaginative 10 year-old Yazidi boy Sefran, who one day accidentally eats the forbidden vegetable of his religion. The choice of following the perspective of a 10 year-old is not to soften harsh realities. It is because children are fascinating with their pure minds, untainted with taboos and rules of societ, and their ability to seize the moment.
Through this story I want to explore how society, taboos and exclusion work, by putting the microcosmos of the children in the camp in the centre of the film and following how rumors and manipulations affect the course of life, both in the children’s world and the surrounding outside world. And opposed to that, how understanding and respecting each other, therefore, living together in peace and harmony, can work.
We live in a time where we are bombarded with instant news and images of tragedy every day. As a consequence, people do not react to human tragedy anymore. Therefore, I believe we need to change the narrative and create optimistic counterpoints, where the positive and personal side is in the fore, without ignoring the negative.
Told from a child’s perspective, the film will be an uplifting drama with a predominantly whimsical visual style, especially when depicting the kids’ world. In sequences related to the protagonist\’s vivid imagination – dreams and nightmares – stop motion animation and in-camera effects will be combined with live action, which will add a certain element of fantasy to the film. Balance of the dramatic reality and the playfulness will be achieved by using natural light and hand-held camera.
With The Bus To Amerika, I would like to reach anyone of any age who has their own version of a dream, has ever cheated a little for something very tasty, ever made a sacrifice for their loved ones, and ever had the courage to face the consequences of their mistakes. When I do so, I hope the viewer will be able to put themselves in my hero’s shoes and realize that ‘the refugee’ could be anyone, even themselves.
Producers: Nefes Polat (Mars Production, Turkey), Antoine Simkine (Les Films D’Antoine, France), Melane Blocksdorf (Propeller Film, Germany)
Production Dates: May – June 2018
Total Budget: 1.000.000 EUR
Funding: Germany-Turkey Co-production Development Fund, Berlinale Co-production Market 2017 – VFF Talent Highlight Award
Training and co-production markets: Paris Co-production Village 2016, Produire Au Sud 2016, Brussels Co-production Forum 2016, Sarajevo Talents Pack&Pitch Program 2016, Berlinale Talent Project Market 2017, Financing Forum for Kids Content 2017, Warsaw Kids Film Forum 2017, Alentours Forum