Oscars: ‘Borat 2’ Star Maria Bakalova To Chair Bulgaria’s Best International Film Selection Committee

Borat 2 star Maria Bakalova will chair the committee selecting Bulgaria’s best international film submission for the 2022-23 Oscar race, the country’s National Film Center has confirmed.

Bakalova was Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated in the 2020-21 awards season for her performance as Borat’s daughter along Sacha Baron Cohen. She is now busy forging a career in Hollywood where subsequent credits have included The Bubble, Bodies Bodies Bodies and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

She has remained loyal to her native Bulgaria where she cut her acting teeth in its independent arthouse cinema scene.

Bakalova’s arrival on the Bulgarian Oscar selection committee follows controversy last year, after the selection of Ivaylo Hristov’s drama Fear over Cannes Un Certain Regard selection Women Do Cry, by Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva’s and starring Bakalova, prompted accusations of foul play.

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Bakalova will be joined by director Kristina Grozeva, whose film The Father (co-directed with Petar Valchanov) was Bulgaria’s 2020 entry, and producer Katya Trichkova, whose credits include award-winning films Dogs by Bogdan Mirica and The Judgement by Stephan Komanderev.

Further members include film critic and festival organizer Katerina Lambrinova, festival organizer Hristo Hristozov and animation director Svilen Dimitrov.

Previously announced member cinematographer Ivan Chertov, whose recent credits include February, may be swapped out following a conflict-of-interest issue with one of the films potentially in the running.

There are currently eight films up for consideration: Georgi Kostov’s financial markets-set drama SpeculatorS; Martin Makariev’s award-winning 1970s labour camp drama In The Heart Of The Machine, Zornitsa Sophia’s Mother, inspired by artist and humanitarian Elena Panayotova, Anri Kulev’s animated feature To Put It Mildly, Alexander Kossev’s Petya Of  My Petya, Drago Sholev’s Fishbone, Valeri Yordanov’s Call Me Shakespeare and Theodore Ushev’s Phi 1.618.

Victor Bojinov’s drama Escape, in which a young rehab patient evades the strict facility where he is being treated and seeks refuge in a nearby mountain hippie commune, was also originally in the mix.

Bojinov and his producers Galina Toneva and Kiril Kirilov announced on Sunday that they had withdrawn the film due to a conflict of interest issue linked to Chertov’s inclusion in the committee, because he was a crew member on the production.

A spokesperson at Bulgaria’s National Film Centre told Deadline on Monday that Chertov would likely be replaced by a new member in the hope that this would bring Escape back into the process.

She said the committee would be watching the films over the coming one to two weeks and meet over Zoom towards the end of August to make their decision.

Bulgaria has never reached the final nominations stage in the international film Oscar race although Komanderev’s The World Is Big And Salvation Lurks Around The Corner made it to the long nine-title shortlist in 2010.

The deadline for submission to the best international film category for the 2023 Oscars is October 3.

Ireland kicked off the international film race last week with the announcement that it was submitting The Quiet Girl and Switzerland also joined the race over the weekend with A Piece Of Sky.

Last year, 93 territories submitted films.

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