A widescreen black-and-white genre thrill ride navigating a stylized 1960s Sofia underworld, "Zift," from Bulgarian theater vet and first-time helmer Javor Gardev, stakes out a style somewhere between Aki Kaurismaki and Guy Ritchie, making it work through sheer chutzpah. This is an instant midnight fest fave that could see limited specialized action before finding true cult status on homevid.

A widescreen black-and-white genre thrill ride navigating a stylized 1960s Sofia underworld, “Zift,” from Bulgarian theater vet and first-time helmer Javor Gardev, stakes out a style somewhere between Aki Kaurismaki and Guy Ritchie, making it work through sheer chutzpah. This is an instant midnight fest fave that could see limited specialized action before finding true cult status on homevid.

Imprisoned during the 1944 communist takeover, “Moth” (Zachary Baharov) has been rotting in jail ever since. Finally sprung, he finds himself in peril immediately when a vengeful former partner comes looking for a diamond that went missing during a botched pre-slammer heist. Along the way he meets self-described “vulgarian Bulgarians” with names like Van Wurst the Eye and Raycho the Skin. Of course there’s a dame, lanky femme fatale Ada (model Tanya Ilieva). Tech credits are tops on an obvious budget, with ace lensing and eye-catching location work combining to create an original update on classic film noir. Title comes from the Bulgarian word for asphalt, excrement and black gum chewed by the protag.

Zift

Bulgaria

Production

A Miramar Film, National Film Center, Bulgarian National Television, Multifilm, Bg Art Studio production. Produced by Ilian Djevelekov, Matey Konstantinov, Georgi Dimitrov. Directed by Javor Gardev. Screenplay, Vladislav Todorov, from his book.

Crew

Camera (B&W, widescreen), Emil Christov; editor, Kevork Aslanyan; music, Kalin Nikolov; production designer, Nikola Toromanov. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 5, 2008. (Also in Moscow Film Festival.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Zachary Baharov, Tanya Ilieva, Vladimir Penev, Mihail Mutafov, Djoko Rossich.

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