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.


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 in 2007 and now takes part in the feature film. It is conducted in a documentary style, shot in the biggest Africa slum – Kibera, featuring real orphans and street children, both in Bulgaria and Kenya. Aiming at authenticity, I did extensive research in Kenya, resulting in scenes in the movie that actually happened to me. Together with the main actress Daria Simeonova we spend time bonding with the children, to help them deliver their performances – a bond that doesn’t end with the end of the shooting. The creation of the film often matches with the mission of the real Elena – to reinvent the future of the children through art – one of the themes of the movie.


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.


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 or awarded at about 200 film festivals including: Warsaw, Shanghai, Goa, Cairo, Sarajevo, Busan, Mar del Plata, Moscow, over 50 competitions, received 27 awards, two of them being vox office hits nationally and two of them are the Bulgarian submission for the Academy Awards. Zornitsa Sophia served as a jury member at film festivals and leads workshops on filmmaking, her method being “learning by doing”.


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”.


  • MOTHER, 2022/2023, feature, Bulgarian/German/Croatian coproduction – Warsaw IFF – Competition, Golden Rose FF – Best Film Award, Best Actress Award, Best Cinematographer Award, Special Award for the children from Bulgaria and Kenya, Cottbus IFF, Kinomania – Opening Film; Eastern Neighbours – The Hague, IFFI Goa – Competition for GANDHI-UNESCO medal, Aswan IFF Competition, Balkan Competition at Sofia FF, Unity of BG Filmmakers – 8 nominations and 2 AWARDS for best Scrreenplay and for Best Supporting Actress, Cinequest IFF, Pula IFF, The original submission for the Academy awards;
  • 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.



Ostlicht Filmproduktion, Germany:


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

The Japanese poster of “Mother” movie



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 International Film Festival – Balkan Competition

Unity of Bulgarian Filmmakers – 8 Nominations for: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematographer, Best Film Sound, Best Editing

Unity of Bulgarian Filmmakers – AWARD for Best Screenplay to Miglena Dimova and Zornitsa Sophia

Unity of Bulgarian Filmmakers – AWARD for Best Supporting Actress to Daria Dimitrova

20th European Film Festival “EU Film Days” – JAPANESE PREMIERE

Cinequest IFF – Competition – AMERICAN PREMIERE

Pula Film Festival – CROATIAN PREMIERE


“Although it doesn’t shy away from the harsh way of life in Kibera, one of Africa’s biggest slums, Mother has a powerful message that will undoubtedly reach the film’s audience. It is incredibly endearing to be told again and again that, no matter our issues and challenges, there is always someone less fortunate than ourselves, and that helping that person or community has a beneficial effect not only on those who are helped, but also on those who provide this help. Mother is a powerful ode to volunteering and urges viewers to look around and see what they can do to make the world a better place. And no, they don’t have to go to Africa for that…” Stefan Dobroiu, Cineuropa

“An authentic film, raw and tender at the same time, inspired by the real story of a Bulgarian woman and her struggle to turn her trauma of not being able to have children of her own – into a triumph of a different type of “parenthood”.

“I can define “Mother” as a film-bridge between innermost desire and sorrow for the unrealizable, developed on a higher cinematographic and spiritual level.” KinoBox

“With this film, which leads more to reflection than to excitement, Bulgarian cinema climbs to a new step from which we have a global view and perspective. By managing to weave different lvels of thinking and different styles (from the purely documentary depiction to the aesthetically-sophisticated of theatrical experimentation) into a single narrative, the direction offers a hybrid approach that particularly appeals to contemporary sensibilities. The film confronts global and local issues, the intimate and the social, purely human longings and fierce ambitions for professional fulfillment.” Cinema Magazine



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




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