THE ETERNITY PACKAGE / Bulgaria
Magdelena Ilieva was born in Bulgaria and studied film directing in Bulgaria and at NYU. During her studies she wrote and directed several short films which were shown at international film festivals. After graduation, Magdelena worked as a 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, 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 the production company Little Wing Productions, based out of Sofia, Bulgaria.
THE ETERNITY PACKAGE (previously known as MONEY FOR A FUNERAL) will be Magdelena’s first feature film as director. It was selected to the Berlinale Talent Project Market 2016, the Midpoint Intensive at Karlovy Vary IFF 2016, the Crossroads Coproduction Forum at Thessaloniki IFF, and was shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab 2017. It was awarded a development grant by the Creative Europe MEDIA program of the EU and is being produced by Martichka Bozhilova of AGITPROP, Bulgaria. It was granted production funding by the Bulgarian National Television where it was voted first in the debut contest; and it recently won the Best Pitch Postproduction prize at PriFORUM Prishtina International Film Festival 2018.
BOBBY, a 30-something funeral director in a declining Bulgarian town, lives an undisturbed existence until his father and co-owner of their funeral agency suddenly keels over after a joyous night of drinking and dies. While prepping his father’s body in the funeral home, there is an incessant knocking on the door. Apparently, a woman, ANKA, wants to organize her own funeral in two weeks’ time. After learning that Anka is in absolutely perfect health and seemingly has no reason to die, this is too much for Bobby who badly needs to say fuck you to death. Bobby ruthlessly plots against Anka’s suspected suicide and this paradoxically leads to a bizarre friendship between them. It serves as a great escape for Bobby from the grieving for his father, from his sister who is after him for money for her share of the funeral agency, and from town corruption.
But Bobby’s showdown with death proves to be more complicated than he imagined: there seems to be no beating it as it surrounds him on all sides and even Anka seems to be close to her final hours. Ultimately Bobby finds that he can’t overcome death, indifference, and darkness. But if love is gained, that creates a speck of light; if there is an insight, that’s a speck of light; you join with another, the speck just might grow into an island of light…Bobby cannot defeat death and darkness, but he can push back. He can make things better—if only he can accept how.
Social relations in Bulgaria, including friendship and family relations, under conditions of amplified alienation in the bureaucratic capitalism after 1989, became too cold for most to be able to confront reality in a human way. As a result, many have left the country.
For those who stayed, when it comes to facing difficulty, like loneliness and death, we find ourselves more and more alone these days. Closer family and friend networks deal with death better than when people cope individually. But when society and families are alienated, the time for mourning diminishes. Thus we are forced to suppress our negative emotion which only makes it stronger and leads to negative attitude towards death. But it’s not just death, there seems to be more negativity with everything, as we deal with difficulty alone. And this negativity slowly turns into lack of faith in the people around us, in our country, in life in general.
What happens when we lose our faith in life?
The natural consequence of losing our faith in life is love of death. This affiliation with death has several features:
A contraction of our beliefs, vision and attitudes occurs. Rigidity accompanies the contraction moving us into right-wrong thinking and into being prone to cynicism and bitterness. A fractured rapport with love happens. The possibility of loving and being loved fades, with love losing the power to influence our choices. This leads to tuthless disregard for others and ourselves. Ultimately helplessness and hopelessness leave us with a kind of amnesia regarding living with heart. Apathy and indifference settle in, diminishing our motivation to learn. Learning is experienced as a waste of time and energy.
And on a bigger scale apathy and indifference lead to more aloneness, leading to more apathy and indifference. But can we overcome this? And how? In this story we have Bobby who feels all alone after his father’s death. He finds more support from death than from life, and chooses his dead parents over his living sister, as his sister chooses escaping over family. In their relationship indifference is met with indifference. Bobby’s choice that he’d rather live with the dead, finds a living partner in Anka who is planning her own funeral. Bobby learns through Anka where death leads, but along the way is confronted by the elements of faith in life—with a growing connection with his stepson and insights into something better. Ultimately, Bobby has to choose between life and death. Either way he will lose something dear to him. But he has to decide what’s more important. And though this choice won’t change much, if it happened on a larger scale, perhaps it would change everything…
This all takes place in a setting where many still feel that things were better under communism and consistently choose elected officials who were in power during communism (or are direct descendants of the ones who were in power). Regardless of whether there is in fact another option available, this choosing the dead regime over something new also affects the story, especially in this small town where the consequences of these decisions resonate more strikingly.
When imagining the setting of the story I envision the outskirts of a dilapidated communist landscape that lies unchanged since the 80’s. It’s as if civilization stopped at some point and now just deteriorates. And this is despite cheap modern buildings devoid of character littering the town, embodying the vapid attempt at growth in the last years. They are juxtaposed with the old, creating a strange mish mash of half-hearted attempts to go forwards, mixed with a tug backwards. As Bobby drives his light-blue hearse, the desolation of the outskirts of the town, with ruins and weeds growing everywhere, burnt fields, all will be ever present to capture the desolation that threatens to take over if Bobby loses his battle against the forces of death.
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, MIDPOINT Intensive at Karlovy Vary IFF 2016, Crossroads Co–production Forum at Thessaloniki IFF 2016, Sundance Screenwriters Lab 2017 – semifinalist, Best Pitch Postproduction Prize at PriFORUM Prishtina International Film Festival 2018