The Film

The Film


Elena, an inspired theatre director from Bulgaria, loses her ability to have children at the age of 32. Facing a choice between conceiving in vitro with her husband Leon, and adapting her life transforming theatre program for orphans in Africa, Elena will have to reinvent the word “mother”. Inspired by a true story.


Elena is an inspired theater director who loses her ability to have children at the age of 32. Trying therapies to get pregnant and failing to convince her husband Leon, 50, to stay with her in Bulgaria and to keep trying, Elena develops a successful life-transforming theater program for orphans. She is invited to do the same in Kenya, where the number of orphans is massive at the same time, when Leon proposes her to start ‘in vitro’ with donated egg cells. Elena has to choose between her dream of having a child of her own and helping thousands of orphans to start dreaming. Finding her own way, Elena will redefine the word “mother”. Inspired by a true story.

Director’s Statement

The movie MOTHER is based on the story of a real person, the theater director Elena Panayotova, who I shot in my documentary MODUS VIVENDI back in 2007. Elena now takes part in the feature film, playing herself at the end of the movie. This adds to the documentary-look of the movie, featuring real orphans and street children, both in Bulgaria and in Kenya, being shot on authentic locations, especially Kibera – one of the biggest slums in the world. Aiming at authenticity, I did extensive research in Kenya, some scenes in the movie are events that actually happen to me. Together with the main actress Daria Simeonova we spent time with the the children in Bulgaria and Africa, as to bond with them and help them relax and deliver their performances. This bond didn’t end with the end of the shooting.

Notes on the languages:

The movie is half in Bulgarian and half in English, but spoken by non-native speakers like a Bulgarian, a Croat and especially the African cast. No matter that for the Kenyans it’s the second official language together with Swahili, we decided on subtitling all of the movie with English subtitles for better understanding. The Swahili and Maasai languages are partly subtitled too, and partly delivering the authentic vibes of the place.

Short bio of the director

Zornitsa Sophia is Master of Fine Arts, major in painting. She has written, directed and produced 4 feature films, 2 documentaries and directed 7 tv series, one theater performance and an Opera. Her films are screened at major film festivals like Warsaw, Shanghai, Goa, Cairo, Sarajevo, Busan, Mar del Plata, Moscow, received over 20 awards, two of them being the Bulgarian submission for the Academy Awards. Zornitsa Sophia served as a jury member at film festivals and has a passion of leading workshops on filmmaking.

Biography of the director

Zornitsa Sophia is Master of Fine Arts, major in painting, who has presented at over 70 exhibitions internationally with paintings and installations and restored the church and the murals in Sofia Male Prison together with the prisoners. Her debut feature as writer, director and producer is MILA FROM MARS, 2004, with 16 awards, over 60 festivals, Bulgarian submission for the Academy Awards and a national box office hit. Following are the documentaries DEATH AND ALL THE WAY BACK, 2005 and MODUS VIVENDI, 2007, and the feature FORECAST, 2009. VOEVODA, 2017, is her third feature film and first as an actress in the leading role. It premiered at Shanghai IFF and Moscow IFF and is a national box office hit. She has directed more than 50 episodes in 7 prime time TV SERIES, two of the series she started as first director. She directed an awarded theater play WHEN THE RAIN STOP FALLING by Andrew Bovell and the opera ZAKHARI, THE PAINTER, composer: Marin Goleminov, which opened the season 2019/2020 of National Opera and Ballet in Sofia, Bulgaria. MOTHER her new feature film premiered at Warsaw IFF Competition, Goa IFF Gandhi-UNESCO Competition and screened in 10 festivals already receiving 4 awards at Golden Rose FF – for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Cinematographer and a Special Award for the children in Bulgaria and Kenya. Her films were selected in over 200 festivals, 50 competitions and received 25 awards, with record admissions nationally, two of them being Bulgarian submission for the Academy Awards. Zornitsa Sophia served as a jury member at film festivals like Warsaw, Valencia, Plzen and in the Artistic Committee of Bulgarian National Film Center. She has the passion of leading workshops on filmmaking in Bulgaria and abroad, her teaching style being “learning by doing”.

Filmography of the director:

  • MOTHER, 2022, feature, Bulgarian/German/Croatian coproduction – Warsaw IFF – Competition, Golden Rose FF – Competition, Cottbus IFF, Kinomania – Opening Film
  • VOEVODA, 2017, feature, Bulgarian/Croatian coproduction – Shanghai IFF, Moscow IFF, Raindance IFF, Cinequest IFF, “Golden Eye” Cinematography Award
  • FORECAST, 2008, feature – Cairo IFF, Goa IFF, Triest IFF, Academica Award at Golden Rose FF
  • MODUS VIVENDI, 2006, documentary
  • DEATH AND ALL THE WAY BACK, 2005, documentary
  • MILA FROM MARS, 2004, feature, Bulgarian/Bosnian-Herzegovina coproduction – 16 awards including: Heart of Sarajevo for Best Film, Extra Special Jury Award by Mike Lee for “Actors Ensemble, Reiner-Werner Fassbinder Award for “best unconventionally-narrated film” and Ecumenical Jury Award at Mannheim-Heidelberg IFF, 5 awards at Golden Rose for Best Film, Best Actress, Best new Director, Best Debut and Journalist Award, selections and nominations: Mar Del Plata IFF, Goa IFF, Pusan IFF, Haifa IFF, Sao Paolo IFF, New Films/New Directors, Palm Springs IFF, Warsaw IFF, Bulgarian submission for the Academy Award.

The producer:

MQ Pictures

MQ Pictures aims to nurture bold creative visions and produce high quality feature films, documentaries and tv series on engaging subjects. In every aspect of our work we develop long term collaborations as to have continuity in our artistic vision and allies in our endeavors. Our theatrical distribution aims to marry the release on each title with an adequate communication strategy with a vision and scope. We organise intensive workshops for filmmakers: writers, directors and actors for cinema. We have produced 4 feature film, 2 documentaries and other shorter audio-visual projects. We have a slate of projects in different stages of development: 4 feature film projects, 3 of them are debuts of our students and one limited tv series in progress.


Ostlicht Filmproduktion, Germany:
The movie is supported by: Bulgarian National Film Center, MDM, Germany and HAVC – Croatian Audio-visual Centre



BEST ACTRESS AWARD, Golden Rose Film Festival
AWARD for the CHILDREN in the film, Golden Rose Film Festival
Warsaw International Film festival –  Int. Competition – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
Cottbus International Film Festival – in competition – GERMAN Premiere
Kinomania – Opening Film – NATIONAL Gala Premiere
Easter Neighbours Film Festival, The Hague, The Netherlands
Minsk International Film Festival “Listpad” International Competition
International Film Festival of India, Goa – Competition: Gandhi-UNESCO Medal – ASIAN PREMIERE
Aswan International Female Festival – Competition
Sofia Film Festival – Balkan Competition



Social Media and IMDB:

Where to watch:

Golden Rose Film Festival – Competition: 24th September 2022
Warsaw International Film Festival – Competition: 14, 20, 22, 23 October
Cottbus International Film Festival – in competition: 8-13 November
Kinomania – Opening Film – Gala Premiere: 17 November
Eastern Neighbours Film Festival, Hague: 20-24 November
Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad” – in Competition – 4-11 November
Aswan International Female Festival – Competition
Sofia Film Festival – Balkan Competition