An involving portrait of a teen peasant who goes on a dangerous journey in search of her father, “Under the Same Sky” makes pregnant use of simple resources capped by a moody, understated lead perf by actress Marta Kondova. Transferred to film, this DV production for Bulgarian TV should rate offshore fest exposure for its timely themes and expressive direction. Film was voted best local feature by foreign guests at its Sofia fest world preem.
Kondova plays Rufie, a 16-year-old who lives in a stone house with her grandmother in an isolated mountain village. Her father, Hairedin, left in search of work in neighboring Turkey four years earlier. Though she’s heard nothing from him for the past three years, the girl remains convinced her dad has not forgotten her and intends to return.
That’s not the feeling in the village as a whole. Nedzhmetin, a boy who fancies her, says she and her grandma need a man about the house. Then the local imam hears from someone just back from Turkey that Hairedin got married, served time in prison, and was ruined.
Rufie leaves home and, posing as a boy, she embarks on a journey through the mountains with a group of illegals that has an ironic coda.
Despite being shot on DV, pic shows a thoroughly cinematic approach to its subject. D.p. Emil Hristov’s subtle use of lenses bends perspectives into mildly unsettling shapes and there’s much play with the skies and cloudscapes of remote southeastern Bulgaria. More’s the pity, however, that the decision was not taken to originate the pic on celluloid.
A modest production with story elements that are hardly new in recent Balkan cinema, the strength of the individual performances win through, especially during the perilous trek that tests the desire of each member to find a new life in Turkey. Early scenes in which the father’s loving voice is heard via letters help to build the emotional reserves that power Rufie through her various adventures.
Though Kondova is hardly convincing as a boy even with sheared locks, she’s very good as the quietly determined mountain girl, and the supporting cast is natural.