His film “Zarevo nad Drava” today seems “impossible”

A hundred years ago, on On September 21, 1922 in Constantinople, within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, one of the best directors of Bulgarian cinema – Zako Heskia – was born.

He created true masterpieces that remain in the Golden Chronicle of native cinematography: “The Eighth”, “The Three from the Stock”, “Glow over the Drava”, “Yo-ho-ho”, “Last Fight”, “Alone Among Wolves (5- TV series, 1979), “Night with the White Horses” (series, 1985), “The Beginning of a Vacation” and others.


Zako Heskia / Source: Golden Fund of BNT

The director died at the age of 83 in 2006 and there were few people at his funeral. The then Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov sent a condolence telegram to the director’s relatives.

On behalf of the Ministry of Pilgrimage Culture was Deputy Minister Nadezhda Zaharieva, wife of the late famous Bulgarian poet Damyan Damyanov.


Retrospective on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Zako Heskia / Source: Regional Library-Haskovo

In other times, the worship of a person so worthy of our culture would have seemed in another, properly dignified way, and this can only make us sad…

However, among the few senders of Heskia, there were famous people such as Valery Petrov, Alexander Grozev and Georgi Dyulgerov, who knew and deeply appreciated the significance of his personality.


Isaac Solomon Heskia, whom we called Zako Heskia, made his debut in 1966 with a screen adaptation of Yordan Radichkov’s short story “Hot Noon”, and even then it became clear that a star – human and talented – had appeared in the firmament of Bulgarian cinema.

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“Cinema is a painful and sweet thing,” said Hesquia, and throughout his conscious life he followed his natural moral human nature. He was happy that in the so-called democratic time was awarded the “Golden Rose” at the Varna film festival in 2002, for overall contribution to our cinema. For him it was a sign that he was not forgotten by his countrymen. This was his fourth “rose” from the Varna Festival. The previous ones are for his films “The Eighth”, “Zarevo nad Drava” and “Alone Among Wolves”, received in the years 1969, 1974 and 1979. Zako Heskia was also a holder of the titles of meritorious and people’s artist, as well as of the Order of St. St. Cyril and Methodius.

His path in the cinema passes, so to speak, through the “kitchen” of the cinematographer. He graduated from a semi-high school in cinematography and photo technique and began his career as an assistant director.

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Collaborated with Borislav Sharaliev in the comedy “Two Victories” (1956); of Binka Zhelyazkova in her work on the audacious contemporary drama “Life Flows Quietly” (1957); of Yakim Yakimov in the maritime melodrama “The Law of the Sea” (1958); of Konrad Wolf filming his masterpiece “Stars” (1959); by Rangel Valchanov for the anti-fascist melodrama “First Lesson” (1960); of Nikola Korabov in the large-scale screen adaptation of the classic “Tobacco” (1962) and of many others among the greatest in Bulgarian cinema. Gather experience and knowledge from them.


From his debut as a director in 1966 until 1991, Zaco Heskia was a director-director at the Boyana Feature Cinema Studio.

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When he made his debut in the cinema as a director with the film “Hot Noon”, he was already at a rather advanced age for a debut – 44. But he had the maturity to create a film that was immediately selected in the competition program of the Cannes festival. This is a remarkable fact that Bulgarian cinema has enjoyed only a few times in its history.

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Georgi Georgiev-Gets in a frame from the film “The Eighth” by Zako Heskia

Three years after his directorial debut, Heskia created the film “The Eighth” (1969) with Georgi Georgiev-Gets. The film was a huge success among viewers and presented the anti-fascist resistance in an unusual way for our social cinema – as an action adventure. This innovative approach to the subject was remarkably advanced for its time.


Zako Heskia’s interest in history prompted him to two other very complex productions – with plots from the Second World War: the tragicomedy “The Three from the Stock” (1971) and the film epic “Zarevo nad Drava”. Many cinematographers believe that today it is unthinkable to create something as large-scale as organization, mass, risky battle scenes and complex editing, as the film “Dawn over the Drava”.

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A frame from Zako Heskia’s film “Glow over the Drava”

And they’re probably right. Today, such a task seems overwhelming and as a financial resource, but it cannot be said that it was easy before. Not long ago, directors dared to work on films of such a huge scale. But he achieved it – he created a true masterpiece not only of Bulgarian but of world cinema.


In the “new” time, many tried to attack the authority of the great director, preferring to remove from his entire filmography the “news” that he had made a “commissioned film to glorify Todor Zhivkov” – the film “The Last Fight”.

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Today it is good to respond to this deliberate and biased remark: The film is based on the partisan memories of the writer Veselin Andreev, and there is nothing raised in it that would accuse the director of party bias or lackey’s faltering. So let today, from the distance of time, and bearing in mind the fact that there is no one truth for all time, the evil tongues be respectfully silent to the worthy person of Zaco Heschia.


He was a virtuoso of all genres – from the historical epic to the entertaining film. He created one of the funniest films in the history of our cinema – “Yo-ho-ho”, starring Kiril Variyski (1981). Many critics consider the film to be a true achievement of native cinematography. The script was written by the great Valeri Petrov, and the main role was entrusted to the actor Kiril Variyski, who immediately became a national film star.

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Kiril Variyski and Victor Chuchkov in Zako Heskia’s film “Yo-ho-ho”

What was so attractive about this film that it has not yet been erased from the memory of generations of Bulgarians back in time? – In this film, the world of adults is reflected in the eyes of children. There was fantasy, humor, and such tenderness in him that only great humanists like Valery Petrov and Zaco Heskia were capable of recreating.

The film brought together two talents of a grand scale – both wise adults and emotional children at heart. “Yo-ho-ho” brought to the screen the theme of friendship that works wonders; friendship that banishes loneliness and restores faith in love.


The film was awarded the Golden and Special Prize at the 12th International Film Festival in Moscow in 1981 and became the first Bulgarian film with a Hollywood remake.

In 1979, Zako Heskia realized the film “Alone Among Wolves”, and in 1985 – “Night with the White Horses” – two of the most successful Bulgarian television series to this day.

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The actor Ivan Ivanov in Zako Heskia’s TV series “Night with the White Horses” based on the novel by Pavel Vezhinov

Both films are based on the scripts of Pavel Vezhinov, and although their characters seem “old-fashioned” ideologically from today’s point of view, even today the Bulgarian viewer would enjoy watching them. In “Alone Among Wolves”, the magnificent acting transformations of the actors Vasil Mihailov and Boris Lukanov are remembered in the film.


Zako Heskia had, in addition to a talent for cinema, also pedagogical abilities. He supported the young and encouraged them with fatherly zeal to succeed. Therefore, quite deservedly, since 1987, he was entrusted to lead the “Debut” creative team at the former “Boyana” Feature Film Studio.

Zaco Hesquia was among our leading filmmakers. He created diverse and ambitious productions, with the participation of prominent domestic and foreign stage directors. He mastered the secrets of the craft, but he never compromised with either the artistic or the spiritual task of cinema as an art – he worked conscientiously.

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The actor Anton Gorchev in a frame from the movie “The Eighth”

One very important fact of his work should be noted – that along with his impeccable professionalism as a director, Zaco Heskia did not allow compromise with the literary foundation. He respected the authors of the original works he adapted.

At the same time, Zaco Hesquia was able to make this literary basis on the screen understandable and interesting for the general public. He could “translate” into film language the depth of the literary prototype.

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Hesquia also had a very precise sense of casting in his somewhat crude films. Conflicts, emotions and clashes sounded on the screen vividly and excitingly. In Heskia’s films, young at that time actresses Bella Tsoneva, Lidiya Valkova, Ginka Stancheva, Maya Dragomanska and others created strong female images.

The male actors in his films were always big stars: Georgi Georgiev-Gets, Vasil Mihailov, Boris Lukanov, Petar Slabakov, Kiril Gospodinov, Nikola Anastasov, Georgi Partsalev, Stefan Mavrodiev, Anton Gorchev, Ivan Ivanov and many others. etc. He also knew how to create stars – like Kiril Variyski

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A still from Zako Heskia’s film “Zarevo nad Drava” with the participation of Georgi Georgiev-Gets

They say that Zako Heskia said goodbye to us with the image of the Old Man from Svetoslav Ovcharov’s film “Hope in Sofia” from the year 2000?… It could be so. Anyone who has seen this movie may have experienced this feeling…

But besides imprinting his honest face in our memories, Zaco Hesquia left us something much more valuable than himself – his films.

Bow!

Emmy MARIANSKA

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