I dream of mummers
Decho and Uncle Ivan live in the small village of Sushitsa in southern Bulgaria. Decho is 68, and Uncle Ivan is 75. They have been friends for as long as they can remember, and for over 50 years, in late summer, they dress as mummers (called “kukeri” in Bulgaria) and take part in the “kukeri” dance in the village square. A custom whose origins are hidden far back in the past, a tradition that has become part of the history of an entire nation. This custom is found in many places in Bulgaria, but here, in this village, it has almost completely preserved its authenticity and can still be seen as it was performed centuries ago.
For people here, this is the biggest feast of the year, and today, on its eve, the entire village is preparing for the celebration. Bells are tinkling, costumes and masks are taken out of drawers and attics. Everything looks just like in an old newsreel from 1942 that we found in the National Film Archives - more than 60 years ago, cameras filmed the same celebration in the same village.
We showed this archival footage to the people in the village. Some of them recognized their fathers and grandfathers because here the tradition is handed down from generation to generation, from father to son. Decho recognized his father and Uncle Ivan saw his grandfather as a young man with curly mustache.
But today, for the first time ever on this date, Uncle Ivan is sad. It is because he will not take part in the dance. His health is fragile and he gets easily tired, often gasping for air…But his friend Decho has decided to give him a present: he has made a life-size model of a mummer and has dressed it in the costume Uncle Ivan used to wear at the feast each year. The artificial mummer will be put into Uncle Ivan’s house "to be his pal" and so that people can see how he used to look like. But first they will take it to the village square so that his fellow-villagers dance could see it. "It’s exactly like me", Uncle Ivan exclaims.
The celebrations begin - the mummers start dancing around a bonfire in the square. Crowds are gathering around the dancing masked men, and above them all, perched on an electricity post, is the fake mummer staring at them with unblinking eyes. "It's just like me", repeats Uncle Ivan, his eyes brimming with tears.
The feast continues until late at night. And when everyone else is gone, the fake mummer unnoticed by anyone, gets down the electricity post and, slung over the shoulders of Decho and his friends, goes to Uncle Ivan’s house.
This is a film about the small village of Sushitsa and its inhabitants, about an ancient tradition that they have preserved almost intact to this day, and about a friendship – as undying as the tradition itself.
Awards and prizes:
- Audience Film Prize 12th Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic Film, London - 2011
- Award for Best Film on Intangible Heritage XX International Festival of Ethnological Film Belgrade, Serbia - 2011
- Award for Best Bulgarian Film International Film Festival For Mountains, Extreme Sports and Adventures Bansko, Bulgaria - 2011
- The Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) film festival in London - 2011
- Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival – 2011
- XX International Festival of Ethnological Film - Ethnographic museum in Belgrade, Serbiа – 2011
- 15th International Ethnographic Movie Festival - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 2011
- Documentary Film festival "Cultural Heritage Values reflected in the cinematography of the Black Sea Region" – Bucharest, Romania – 2011
- International Film Festival For Mountains, Extreme Sports and Adventures – Bansko, Bulgaria - 2011