46 years ago, Helga and I decided to have our honeymoon in Bulgaria starting at the black sea. The trip went through Austria, Hungary and Romania to Bulgaria. Then as now there was only one connection between Romania and Bulgaria: a long bridge over the Danube. Ruse is on the Bulgarian side. At that time, one had to wait several hours until one was processed by the customs. Today, it only takes a few minutes.
I advise UNICA participants, who want to drive to Ruse by car not to pick the route through the former Yugoslavia, because this is dangerous.
When we visited the city of Ruse 46 years ago, we didn't suspect of course that we would often return. I cannot compare the impression of that time and today.
Ruse is a modern city with beautiful old houses and a varied history. The people are very friendly and helpful. You can eat very well and cheaply everywhere. After some visits to the Bulgarian film festival in Ruse, I grew fond of this city, and met very nice friends.
I have known the president of the Bulgarian Federation for Alternative Cinema, Vladimir Iliev for 20 years. We are connected through a deep friendship, that I would not like to do without. Even in the time of the communist regime we kept in touch through letters. I regularly sent him super-VHS collections of films from the Unica festivals, so that he could form an impression of western film work.
My first personal meeting with Mr. Iliev took place in the fair city of Plovidv where I was visiting a friend. Mr. Iliev took the trouble then to drive over 300 km through wintry conditions over the Balkan mountains to meet me and to discuss films. After some hours, he then drove again home through the night.
At that time they got cameras on loan from the Bulgarian film association in Sofia, but those vanished with the political upset. With his then modest wage, he got himself a new western camera and he still films with it today.
I am solidly confident that UNICA 2012 will be a great experience in Ruse for all participants. The whole team will put in the greatest effort, to make this film festival successful and unforgettable.