Ralitza Petrova’s early life was spent making fine art, with the idea of directing films dawning on her in her early twenties. After making an experimental documentary in Tokyo about teenage suicide survivors, she went on to study Film at University of the Arts, later completing her Masters in Fiction Directing at the National Film and Television School. Ralitza's films often explore the individualistic responses of those whose environments are rife with societal and political pressures. Her latest multi-award winning film Godless, presented by London-based film collective The New Social, takes a look at the effects of communism on the ordinary lives of the inhabitants of Bulgaria, resulting in a candid and raw portrayal of the darker aspects of human nature when faced with trying circumstances.
I currently live in Sofia, Bulgaria, which is certainly a more chaotic place than London.
As a filmmaker, I find such places more inspiring. You have more things to rub against, and talk about. There is also more potential for developing your creative voice, as you are not distracted by ‘hot’ trends, as you probably would be in places like London, or New York.
The driving force behind me first wanting to direct was I think to make sense of the world around me by reimagining it.
Artists and filmmakers are very lucky in that way. They can experience many lives through their work and storytelling. It’s like living in a playground forever (laughs). It’s beautiful, and free. The first time I became aware of the art of filmmaking was through ‘The Fly’ by David Cronenberg. I was impressed by the minimalism in the film. It was all shot in one apartment, with this incredibly tense atmosphere - it hooked you.
I often walk the line of morality in my films.
I like questioning what is socially accepted, or not. I like seeing beauty in what is usually perceived as ugly. Or to find darkness in what seems innocent. I guess since a young age I had a problem with accepting the status quo (laughs). My filmmaking is often both visceral and allegorical, where real life experiences merge with fiction to portray more complex narratives and ideas. I like immersing the viewer in the story through stimulating visuals and sound.
I’m someone who’s very alert to the atmosphere of spaces.
The architecture of things affect me very much. So I often write down ideas of images and sounds. Later they pop up in my films in a fictional context. I like subverting meanings and connecting things that initially didn’t belong. I love the austere beauty found in the Bulgarian National Park Pirin (2,914 m). Being around Vasilashki Lakes can make you become pretty quiet.
If I had to eat one thing forever, it’d be a cucumber.
Since it's 98% water, it'd keep me nicely hydrated for the rest of my life. I think I need a bit more water than the average person. It must be because of my height - I’m six foot tall. In Bulgaria, it’s a popular vegetable. We use it a lot in salads and in a summer soup called “tarator”. The recipe generally includes yogurt and water as a base, then ground walnuts, bit of garlic, ground cucumber, and lemon juice. I recommend it. Especially in summer, it’s very refreshing.