ZORNITSA SOPHIA a.k.a. Zornitsa Sophia Popgantcheva




Zornitsa Sophia graduated as Master of Fine Arts, major in painting, later in Film Directing. Her first film is MILA FROM MARS, 16 awards, 60 festivals and a box office hit in Bulgaria. She wrote, directed and produced 3 feature films and 2 documentaries, directed 6 TV series and 1 awarded theater play. VOEVODA is her third feature film as writer, director and producer and first as actress.


Zornitsa Sophia is Master of Fine Arts, major in painting, specialized in School of Visual Arts, NYC and AU, DC. She exhibited in 65 visual arts events internationally and restored the church in Sofia Male Prison, together with the convicts. Her debut no budget feature “Mila From Mars” (2004) won 16 awards, including Best Film and Special Jury Award at Sarajevo IFF, Best Film, Best Actress and 3 more awards at “Golden Rose”, two awards at Mannheim-Heidelberg IFF, screened at 60 festivals including Mar del Plata, Pusan, Goa, New Directors/New, it was Bulgarian submission for Academy Awards and a box office hit nationally. Followed by “Death and All The Way Back” (docu, 2005), “Modus Vivendi” (docu, 2006), “Forecast” (feature, 2009). She directed 18 episodes in 6 TV series in all genres and one awarded theater play. “Voevoda” is Zornitsa Sophia’s third feature film as writer, director and producer and first as actress. It’s currently a national box office hit and will have World Premiere in Shanghai IFF and International Premiere at Moscow IFF.


Mila From Mars, feature film, 2004
Death and All The Way Back, documentary, 2005
Modus Vivendi, documentary, 2006
Forecast, feature film, 2009
Voevoda, feature film, 2017


The film features many nonprofessional actors, the writer/director/producer playing the lead role and her daughter playing the younger Roumena. Through rough and raw cinematic narrative the film strives for authenticity imposing the question how cruel people could be the ones who are different. A woman ahead of her time, Roumena pushes relationships beyond the obvious religious, cultural and gender limits. Fairy-tale moments contrast teh realistic visual language suggesting how people ahed of their time, even when brutally murdered grow into lengends.


When I started the script of Voevoda 5 years ago I didn’t realize how popular the “female heroes” would become, in the archetype sense of the word. Roumena is not a sci-fi hero, neither exactly a feminist, she is a rough and raw true character, more of a man than most of the men around her, as critics describe it. What inspires me greatly is the fact that in the harsh times of the Ottoman Empire 16-19cent. most of the women who became rebels actually became voevodas – commanders of the rebellious bands. There are over 40 known of the type. To me this is a phenomenon that manifests how a small person pushed to the wall either brakes or strikes back harder and grows beyond the “square boxes” of the society or the times. That’s what actually kills them – the fact they can’t be understood and therefore accepted. Even by their closest allies, even by the beloved one.

Looking for non-professional actors whenever possible aiming at authenticity and failing to cast the lead role, I had to face a hard choice to either play Roumena myself or postpone the shooting with one year or give up the project. The usual 3 in 1 for me became 4 in 1: writer, director, producer and actress, with my daughter playing my younger self. This resulted in an unexpected merge with the character who I wrote and played, and my profession of director melting with my on-screen “job” as rebel-leader. It all became one, very often putting me miraculously in the shoes of my heroine, making me face similar issues she has faced – trust, proving abilities, stamina and most importantly: how can one achieve all that and still be a descent mother. The question every second working mother faces nowadays, but for the period Roumena was a pioneer.

The authenticity of the film and “modus vivendi” of that period was achieved through a rough training camp for the actors, where we had to live with the costumes, on the rural locations, exercising martial practices of the period, sleeping and eating in the forests with no shelter. Visually ,in terms of cinematic narrative together with Cinematographer Krum Luis-Alirio Rodriguez and editor Victoria Radoslavova we decided on subjectivity and minimalism as our cinematic language trying to “breath with the characters”. In sound design the subjective approach were pushed even further, some scenes get to a complete silence or mono sound design, to focus on the inner worlds of our characters. We intend to achieve physicality of watching the film and the audience to be (with) the characters – seeing and hearing what they see and hear. These ways of subjective and minimalistic storytelling the three of us intend to pursue further in our next films.

Zornitsa Sophia


Zornitsa Sophia has graduated in Fine Arts from National Academy of Fine Arts, major in painting, second in sculpture, she made post graduation study in School of Visual Arts, New York, USA and Graphic Design in American University, Washington DC. She restored the church in Sofia Male Prison, together with the convicts. As a conceptual visual artist Zornitsa Sophia had over 60 group and solo exhibitions, participations in festivals and screenings of her works – video art, performances, installations and paintings. 20 of them in Bulgaria and over 30 of them abroad – Darklights Ireland; VideoPossitive’00, Liverpool; Kiev Video and Film; Utopia Travel; Projected Visions, Strasbourg; Dreamcatcher, Kiev; VideoMedeja”, Novi Sad; Dig_in_time; Crossing Over 4; WRO Poland. She had exhibitions around the world – New York, Paris, Zurich amongst others and five solo exhibitions – 2 in ATA Gallery, Sofia, one in Dresden, Germany and the last one – in SHUPY, Sofia and Bulgarian Cultural Center in London, both in 2014.