Director Bogdan’s ‘baptism’ into documentary film came in a most unexpected way in 2013 when Mary Sherhart, choir director of the Bulgarian Voices of Seattle, asked him to make a documentary for one of a kind gradma - baba Penka. Bogdan will always remain in debt to Mary for her trust and nurturing guidance, to baba Penka for her courage and song and to the Bulagrian community in Seattle and the Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center for supporting ‘This Baba.’
Bogdan’s grandmother, Stefka Prohaskova, a stage actress and later a visionary theatre director whose plays were twice banned in Sofia by the communist leadership, gave Hristina Panayotova her first on stage role. “You grandma has such presence and intuition. She watched me walk into the audition, looked at me and without another word said: The part is yours!”
Eric introduced the film and curated the Q & A. From 1994 to 1996 Eric was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lovech, Bulgaria where he taught English. He met Diana THERE and later married her! His Bulgarian is charming and his love for Bulgarian culture is so genuine it is contagious!
In Eric’s own words:
“In 1994 I remember wanting to go "there" -- to Bulgaria -- so badly, even though all I knew about it was its geography, the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, and a bit of its Cold War politics from having represented Bulgaria in Model United Nations in the 80s. I remember loving and then hating it and wanting to come "here" so badly, and then finding my groove "there" and realizing also that I had severed my roots and changed forever, somehow.
Coming home I talked about 'there" so often that people sometimes found it boorish. I never again felt like I had roots exactly or just feel their metaphorical nature not their gripping physicality.
For years I wanted more of "there" in my life, which I got through my friends in the States, Valio, Petio, Kamen & Elka, and others. Valio, our "koom," and Petio got US citizenship but returned to Bulgaria. It's like a part of me was ripped out here and a different part was ripped out "there." I'll never forget that afternoon in Central Park in Huntington Beach in which I heard narodna musika (Bulgarian folk music) on the wind and followed it as if to the scent of a fresh pie in a window. I found Petro and others from the Orange County crew. I had found "there" "here" - music, soccer, lutinitsa, bread, rakia, vitsove...
I went back there a couple times in the beginning and then I suddenly lost more than a decade. Going to Bulgaria with my daughters for the first time two years ago, my "there" was still there, but it wasn't the same. Lovech lost a generation and a lot of life, yet got an enormous new church in the center, for whom I don't know. Several of my people from there moved on. I realized I wasn't seeing my Bulgaria, but my daughters were getting to know their "there" and we created a new one together catching fireflies in Ostrets, wandering and dancing through the music festival in Dolen, staring across rooftops and having beers in the park in Sofia, having the hairs stand up on my arms at the monastery in Troyan, laughing at lovers kissing in the mehana in Varosha in Lovech, the amazing roadside byal bob on the way to Teteven...
I think "there" is not a place but a string of fleeting moments in timespace in which we just feel good with our people and experiences. I don't think there is any going back and while that might be bittersweet, it also liberates us to make new moments and carve out new "there's" in our life, both here and there.
One day in the park here in Green Lake I again heard narodna musika on the air and followed it only to find Bogdan alone, in a blissful state, playing the kaval. He reminded me of a gaidar I once saw playing on a peak in the morning near Dyavolskoto Gurlo. It occurred to me then that he had found much of Bulgaria here in the States. He found the Bulgarian community like I did in Lovech, he set aside Deep Purple and picked up Valya Balkanska, he became a koledar, and in so many ways carved out a new "there" here.”