The Sofia International Film Festival opens March 5 with the world premier of The Goat, a dark comedy from Bulgarian director Georgi Djulgerov and close March 15 with Wim Wenders presenting his film The Palermo Shooting.

The festival's international competition of first and second films includes Bulgaria's Oscar submission, Zift, as well as Ozcan Alper's Autumn and Gerald McMorrow's Franklyn.

Hungarian director Janos Szasz will lead the international jury, which also includes Israeli film-maker Doron Eran, Bulgarian actor Momchil Karamitev, Bulgarian journalist Elena Yoncheva and Serbian director Stefan Arsenijevic.

Elsewhere the focus is mainly on films from the region, with the Balkan Competition of six films, all of which garnered international attention at festivals last year, and the Bulgarian Features selection of four titles, including A Farewell To Hemingway, director Svetoslav Ovcharov's fantasy about Ernest Hemingway's one night in Bulgaria.

Guests at the festival include Michael Palin, who will receive the Sofia Award for his contribution to television and filmmaking, as well as Peter Weir, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, who are in town working on Weir's new film, The Way Back.

Sofia Meetings Forum

Industry professionals attending the festival are drawn to the sixth edition of the Sofia Meetings pitching forum, which takes place March 12-15. Potential backers will be pitched on 22 projects, including:

  • Everybody In Our Family , a new project from Romanian director Radu Jude and producer Ada Solomon, who worked together on The Happiest Girl In The World;
  • Transilvania Show , from Hungarian director Robert Lakatos and producer Andras Muhi (Bahrtalo! Good Luck!);
  • Archeo , from Slovenian director Jan Cvitkovic (Gravehopping);
  • Heaven On Earth , from Croatian director Ognjen Svilicic (Armin);
  • The Judgement , from Bulgarian film-maker Stefan Komandarev (The World Is Big And Salvation Lurks Around The Corner);
  • Fuga Mortis , from Sundance screenwriting lab alum Kirill Mikhanovsky, who won the Screen International Best Pitch Award at the Baltic Event in December.

In past editions the Sofia Meetings has helped such film-makers as Kornel Mundruczo, Cristian Mungiu and Ilmar Raag gain support for their projects.

The event traditionally attracts leading European producers, including Karl Baumgartner and Philippe Bober, interested in talent from the region.

'I think the Balkans has something to say - not only Romanian films, but also Bulgarian films, especially documentaries, can be interesting, for Western markets in particular,' said Marta Lamperova, managing director of SPI International's sales arm Film Europe, who is attending the event.

A further 92 projects will be presented at the 20th Sunny Side of the Doc international documentary market March 11-14. Sunny Side will also feature a panel on distribution in Central and Eastern Europe and a co-production market.

International competition of first and second films:

  • Possible Lives (Argentina) dir. Sandra Gugliotta
  • The Firm Land (France-India-Iran) dir. Chapour Haghighat
  • Zift (Bulgaria) dir. Javor Gardev
  • Chiko (Germany) dir. Ozgur Yildirim
  • Cumbia Calera (Mexico) dir. Rene Villareal
  • Baksy (Russia-Kazakhstan-France-Germany) dir. Gulshat Omarova
  • Awaking From A Dream (Spain) dir. Freddy Mas Franqueza
  • Autumn (Turkey) dir. Ozcan Alper
  • Franklyn (UK) dir. Gerald McMorrow
  • The Happiest Girl In The World (Romania) dir. Radu Jude
  • Bahrtalo (Good Luck!) (Hungary) dir. Robert Lakatos
  • Weekend In Tel Aviv (For My Father) (Israel-Germany) dir. Dror Zahavi