The Story Behind “The Last Black Sea Pirates”
“The movie is about treasures; the ones we hunt for and the ones that we find,” Svetoslav Stoyanov, director of “The Last Black Sea Pirates,” said about his first full-length film. The screening of the movie, organized by the AUBG Documentary Movie Club and prof. Melody Gilbert, took place on Monday, Feb. 16 at the ABF Theatre Hall.
Svetoslav Stoyanov is a Bulgarian director and operator. His audio-visual projects and short movies have been shown all around Europe. They have been competing in festivals in Athens, Madrid, Moscow, Dublin, Venice and others.
“The Last Black Sea Pirates” tells the story of the last Bulgarian pirates, Captain Jack the Whale and his small group of ex-prisoners and criminals, who are running form the law, their wives or beliefs. They are looking for a mythical treasure that is hidden somewhere in Karadere (a secluded beach in Bulgaria between Varna and Burgas).
“It is important to note that it is not a movie about the Black sea piratеs,” Stoyanov explained. “It is our [his and the co-author, Vanya Raynova] story about them.” He noted that because of that this is not a pure documentary. Stoyanov and Raynova call it a non-fiction genre. “The movie is a documentary, but at the same time it is so much more,” the director said.
It took the crew of five people about six years to shoot the movie. According to Stoyanov, that was the only way the shooting could be done because of the background of his characters. Whether the pirates were to allow the making of the movie was up to Captain Jack.
“If the Captain says that something is going to happen, it will happen. No matter if the others want it or not,” Stoyanov said. The only arrangement was the dynamite and the guns not to be shot because of the problems the pirates had with the police. The ones shown in the movie are fake.
At the premiere of “The Last Black Sea Pirates” in Varna, all of the characters were present. The director thinks that they were happy with the end result. All but Captain Jack the Whale. “He was mad because there were scenes with his dogs that were missing,” Stoyanov said and added that the Captain loved his animals and was constantly surrounded by them, so he asked for the footage. Another problem that the Captain had was the fact that he could not understand that the movie is not only about him. Stoyanov shared that Jack was constantly pounding when the crew was filming someone digging for the gold at a place he did not know about. “He probably still thinks that in the afterlife,” the director said and explained that the Captain died two weeks prior to the screening at AUBG.
Stoyanov defines this movie as his most favorite work so far. “It is perfect in the context of what I think is perfect as an attitude towards a project,” he said. “It was a very personal story.”
On the beach of Karadere, where he met the pirates for the first time 20 years ago, he also met his wife and co-author of the production, Vanya. The idea of the movie was born when they found out that there is a project for the building of a housing development on the beach. They understood that their pirates’ world will disappear, along with the place that was special for them.
On that beach the authors of the movie fell in love. “That was the place where we made our daughter, the place where our son was born during the filming,” Stoyanov said. “This is such a personal project that will forever remain our favorite.”
“The Last Black Sea Pirates” has been awarded numerous awards in 2013 and 2014 for best documentary, best director, best documentary cinematography, best director debut and others. Stoyanov said that he was expecting the success of the movie. “We had incredible characters, incredible story. That is something will probably never happen again,” he explained. According to him, the biggest challenge that the crew faced was how to tell such an amazing story that resembles a fairy tale.
The screening was open not only to AUBG students, but also to people from Blagoevgrad. Before the screening, Stoyanov met with students to answer questions and gave advice to several graduating students, who showed him their capstone projects. After the screening, he stayed for a Q&A session with the audience.