The film opens with a rant from one of the Village Elders. Everything bad comes from TV he declares. It leads to women wanting to be independent, a lower birthrate and bad ideas from Bulgaria's Capital Sofia. Soul Food Stories is set in the village of Satovcha boasting a population just north of 2000 inhabitants. Activities of the villagers appear to be split along gender lines. The men sit around tables in the pensioners social club discussing freely politics, religion, women and even homosexuality while the women occupy the village kitchens spending multiple hours making the local staple a flour full banista talking about men, family especially lamenting the fact that all of the young people so quickly move away. The town features many religions, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Evangelical Gypsies plus Atheist Communists holdovers. They all coexist with food being the common bond. The timing of the production also benefits from the appearance of a Finnish couple who have come to Satovcha's to have observe the towns multi cultural make up.
At the opening of the film the towns Muslims are at the end of a 30 days Fast however some of the men were not so adherent leading to a reminder from the women that ending up in Hell is a real consequences of not taking the Fast seriously.
Director Tonislav Hristov spends time with each section of the town. He delves into the history through a couple of interviews with the two oldest men in town one Orthodox, the other Muslim who were there when the Germans and then the Soviets rolled in the 40's The Muslim elder statesmen is almost brought to tears as he recounts how he had to hide his religion and was forced to change is name to avoid severe repercussions from the new Soviet regime. They both lament that their wives are gone along with everyone else they new as they tell their stories to the crew.
When a younger member of the community dies Hristov captures the funeral march with one remarkable stationary camera long shot. The lens catching the march of the townsmen (as according to the Imam women are too hysterical therefore not allowed at the funeral) as they walk around a bend, pallbearers constantly switching the group growing in size breath as they approach and then pass the camera location.
The most curious couple in town is a Korean Evangelical minister and his wife. Hristov shows a service in their church where they attract a lukewarm following amongst the Roma population. They are constantly filming and documenting taking pictures of the congregation and recording a Roma christening. The production interviews them at where they comment on their role as Missionaries while preparing a traditional Korean meal.
The biggest talking point in the film is a request from the women to have a second day in the pensioners social club. The request is cause for much concern amongst the elders as they sit and discuss the ramifications with Hristov camera catching every word. It's another salvo in the push and pull between the sexes in the village.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Soul Food Stories | Tonislav Hristov | Bulgaria / Finland | 2014| 69 Minutes.
Tags: Religion, Worship, Missionaries, Orthodox, Muslim, Roma, Communist, Banista.