The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Documentary to address accounts of communism

"Faces of Communism," a student-filmed documentary featuring first-person accounts of Bulgarians' memories of communism, will be shown at 4 p.m. March 1 in the Carole Weinstein International Center with a question and answer session to follow.

University of Richmond senior Zhivko Illeieff, an international studies major from Bulgaria, came up with the idea for the documentary.

"I wanted to know how my grandparents lived," Illeieff said, "and how life was back then. And I wanted to provide the same thing for future generations of Bulgarians so that they don't have to rely on the media or books that have questionable authors."

Illeieff said once people from that era were gone, there would not be a first-person account of communism.

"I was born in 1989, precisely when the changes took place," Illeieff said. "My generation, I feel like we don't know much about communism. What I wanted to do was go back and interview people who have memories of communism."

Illeieff asked his friend, senior international studies major Charles Mike, to help. Mike has worked on film with history professor Dan Roberts and his radio show, "A Moment in Time."

Mike also works in the Technology Learning Center and on video editing software. Mike said he had thought it would be a great idea to help make the documentary, being an international studies student and a film buff.

Along with Illeieff's Bulgarian friend Tsvetan Naydenov from the Academy of TV, Film Arts and Internet Communications in Sofia, Bulgaria, they submitted a proposal to the Davis Peace Project through the Office of International Education to make the documentary.

A campus committee of past winners, headed by Krittika Onsanit, director of international student, scholar and internship services, selects one proposal from the university each year and sends it to the Davis Peace Project, which then decides whether to accept the proposal.

Illeieff, Mike and Naydenov used the $10,000 grant they were awarded to get tickets to travel to and around Bulgaria.

They spent approximately two and a half months in the summer of 2010 visiting all of the major Bulgarian cities.

Illeieff set up interviews through his family and anyone else he could find. The group talked to between 30 and 35 people.

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Most were reluctant to talk about communism, Illeieff said, because there was still a fear that if people talk about it someone was going to come after them. A few people did not want to give their names, he said.

It took Illeieff about 20 days of constant editing in Bulgaria, he said. He started from the moment he woke up until it got dark outside, to complete the film, he said.

He said he was trying to transcribe all of the Bulgarian interviews into English and put them on their website (facesofcommunism.com) so people could look at and use them. There are subtitles for fragments of the film.

Illeieff is also trying to gather more interviews -- anything people send him. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and unused interviews that he wanted to do something with, Mike said.

"We go to school to learn new stuff," Mike said. "It's rare that you get to see a film made by your own peers."

Contact staff writer Sarah Craig at sarah.craig@richmond.edu

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