Drug addicts are the same the world over: That's the only conclusion to be drawn from Bulgarian-raised, New York-based documentarian Konstantin Bojanov's sympathetic but unsparing portrait of six junkies in his hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city. When Bojanov was growing up, street drugs were rare, pharmaceutical addiction was a luxury reserved for...read more
Drug addicts are the same the world over: That's the only conclusion to be drawn from Bulgarian-raised, New York-based documentarian Konstantin Bojanov's sympathetic but unsparing portrait of six junkies in his hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city. When Bojanov was growing up, street drugs were rare, pharmaceutical addiction was a luxury reserved for the upper classes and addicts were registered with the government. But while Bojanov was away studying film in the United States, the collapse of the Soviet Union flooded former Iron Curtain countries with an unprecedented wave of street drugs. A trip home in 2000 proved an eye-opener: Bojanov saw addicts from all walks of life shooting Afghan smack, officially unaccounted for, untreated and apparently invisible. Bojanov set out to document the routines of these unnoticed outcasts, who live on the streets, frequent ruined crash pads and gather in a trashed downtown park dubbed "The Spot." Rather than grapple with larger social issues, he simply followed a loose-knit group of six addicts over a three-year period and recorded the day-to-day details of their lives. The oldest is 39-year-old Remi, who serves as ad hoc father figure to 18-year-old Diana; best friends Vicki, 20, and Stani 22; 27-year-old Kamen and 24-year-old Sasho. Remi shepherds the younger addicts through life, encouraging them to eat, sharing tips for surviving street life and helping them fix. Sofia's handsome basilicas, broad boulevards and ornate architecture give the film a superficially unfamiliar look, but the up-close details of drug-driven lives are numbingly familiar. Filthy shooting galleries, pasty complexions, spaced-out philosophizing, suicide attempts, pie-in-the-sky dreams of getting clean, ritualistic drug preparation, self-aggrandizing rants about corrupt consumerist society, uncaring families and smug bourgeois values — Bojanov's sad subjects could as easily be in Detroit or Glasgow or Marseilles. What keeps his film from being a relentless wallow in wasted lives is its surprising conclusion: After three years, Bojanov returns to check in the group, and finds that not only are they all alive, but several actually have kicked their habits and are trying to pick up the threads of ordinary life. In this context their efforts, which appear to be meeting with varying degrees of success, constitute a bona fide happy ending. (In Bulgarian with English subtitles)
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