Georgi And The Butterflies

Andrey Paounov

Bulgaria, 2004.

The authorities are cutting back on the home’s budget and staff for work therapy. It is rumoured that a brand-new building for the patients stands empty because of bureaucracy. There is generally little support. It takes one man’s struggle to make the world go around.

Georgi Lulchev is a true hero. Indeed.

However, one of the strong qualities of this warm, 35mm film in golden hues is that the doctor is not described as a hero. He is depicted in constant activity, as he goes around talking to potential partners to get production initiatives off the ground that can help the men have something to do and help the institution survive financially. And he describes his ideas with passion and humanistic engagement. Story-wise, he gives a tour of the venue accompanied by a man from the Dutch embassy, who wants to help. Actually, the embassy official resembles one of the patients!

The director of the film has taken the difficult decision of making what could be characterized as a documentary comedy. He allows us, the spectators, to laugh without embarrassment, even if there is actually not that much to laugh at. But we laugh at the small, fine, human situations in the film. The conditions are poor for the patients at the home, most of whom will stay there for the rest of their lives, but the worst thing, as one of the patients puts it, is that it is not pleasant to wait. They need to be active, to be doing something. But they need someone to tell them what it could be.

They deserve a normal human life, thinks Georgi, and as we the spectators do, too. He takes us to fields of snails. Snail production could be an option, but the patients did not like it in the long run because they had to bend down all the time to pick up the snails! He takes us to ostriches: the patients could take care of them. A good idea, but it lacked funding. Silk production, hence the film’s title, but bureaucratic obstacles – again. As we leave the film, we put our faith in soy-bread production – the bread of the future.

“We are a big family,” one of the characters in the film says. Nevertheless, they are individuals who all have different spoons, as demonstrated by a patient who declares that he knows every spoon and to whom they belong. This is one of several sweet scenes you remember, like the one that follows when the whole group goes down to the town to drink a Coca-Cola at the local bar.

One man’s struggle for decency. May he win.

Modern Times Review