As a filmmaker you have to decide who you will align with to get inside a story and Peevski was not returning my phone calls. I wish Peevski had agreed to an interview – maybe the film would be different? I do take a certain pride in the fact that a Peevski owned newspaper referred to me as an agent “posing as a Journalist from Texas”. If that’s true I must be the deepest cover operative in the history of the CIA or KGB or whatever he is accusing me of.
This is what director and producer of „Shadows of Sofia” Kevin Booth share with FrogNews. Here’s how he answered our questions.
Mr. Booth tell us a little about yourself, your work. How did you get to the idea of „Shadows of Sofia“?
I started in the music industry – I confess I was in a MTV hair band in the late 80’s , but soon found a passion in producing a childhood friend named Bill Hicks who became a very controversial political comedian. Bill passed away from cancer at age 32.
In 1994 I personally witnessed government agents kill women and children at the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco Texas. This one event caused me to set out on a life of exposing the hypocrisy of the American government.
In 2003 after loosing my brother, mother, father and best friend to the “Legal Drugs” of Alcohol, Tobacco and pharmaceuticals – I spent four years investigating the profit motives of keeping drugs illegal. “American Drug War” debuted in 2007 on Showtime and Netflix and has now been broadcast on five continents and viewed by over 50 million people. The film provided full evidence that connected the CIA and the Crack Cocaine epidemic that started in Los Angeles ghettos.
In 2013 a British film producer friend of mine Paul Thomas who had made a film about Bill Hicks told me he had been following the protests in Sofia, soon another friend invited me to check out Bulgaria for myself. After spending a few weeks touring around I realized it would make a great story, but how to sell it to an American audience?
Growing up in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, I have always been fascinated by Russia, not so much about blind fear, but a curiosity of a culture totally closed off from American media. With so many films about Russia – I decided to make a story about a country under Russian control.
What do you expect to achieve with this movie?
Hopefully entertain, but to enlighten the west about a place most Americans could not point to on a map, but a story that ultimately effects everyone.
Probably there will be different reviews in the US, Russia and Bulgaria.
For the average American viewer it’s a cautionary tale about a strange place, an investigative road trip film that connects Putin to a massive financial scandal.
The only Russian response I’m getting are posts on the films Facebook page. They mostly accuse me of being an arrogant hypocritical American. When I tell them that I spent 15 years exposing the CIA it leaves them speechless, they did not learn how to respond to that answer in Russian troll school.
Sadly I can usually tell they have only seen the trailer that contains my narration saying, “I was raised to believe Russia was evil”. For an English speaking audience this is obviously self-deprecating sarcasm. I’m making fun of my childhood by saying I was raised with a narrow-minded point of view about Russia. Obviously this type of sarcasm and irony does not translate into Russian. Maybe this is the reason Russian rock bands always sucked? Was that Russia bashing?
What are the comments in these countries and how is the film being accepted there?
The response from Bulgaria is about 80% positive, obviously many are in favor of an outsider attempting to expose their corruption. I have been told that it’s a film a Bulgarian couldn’t have made because they would not have survived.
One common negative review from Bulgaria –why did I put Roma in the film? I knew from my Bulgarian crew that the average Bulgarian does not have positive feelings towards the Roma. I have been accused of glorifying the Roma; I have been accused of being tricked by the Roma. Of course those things are all true, but I wiillingly participated in order to create something entertaining for an American audience. Here in America we have much more brutal poverty, we have massive homeless encampments, Google “SKID ROW” in downtown Los Angeles. Its about the closest thing to hell on earth you will ever find. The idea of poor displaced people building villages with running water is crazy. Call them crooks, call them thief’s, call them scam artist, but I could only wish the homeless immigrants in America had the focus and energy to build villages. As long as it’s not by my house – well maybe the critics are right..
Two of your interlocutors aroused interest here – Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Tsvetan Vassilev. How you managed to reach them and what made you look for them?
I approached this film like an innocent child hitting the ground with an open mind. One story led to another – one investigation opened a door into other investigation.
I was going to allow the truth to become my guide. This film was shot over a period of eighteen months. I did eight, one-month tours of Bulgaria and surrounding countries. The reason I mention this? I interviewed both Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Tsvetan Vassilev at the very end. I had no idea of who these people were until a story I was following led me directly to them.
Regarding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he represented the old guard and the idea that an outside force could only rule Bulgaria. When I discovered that there had been accusations of him being tied to the KGB it became a no brainer. Without going into detail the connection to him was made while doing drugs in a bathroom with a famous doctor. Yes as a filmmaker you have to get dirty some times.
Regarding Tsvetan Vassilev – after investigating Peevski for a year it became obvious that he was one inside man who just might be willing to talk. In the film I actually show the moment Assen Yordanov from Bivol helped find him in Serbia. Back to your question about Bulgarian sentiment towards film- I have caught a bit of flack for being so friendly with Tsvetan Vassilev, but again as a filmmaker you have to decide who you will align with to get inside a story and Peevski was not returning my phone calls.
Do you think that the shadows that you show in Sofia can cause complete darkness in Bulgaria?
I believe the puppet masters have Bulgaria in a perfect position as is. I’m not sure they want a complete black out. This would end their ability to exploit the relationships between the east and west that is allowing them to rob the E.U. in broad daylight. Look at Brexit and then look at Bulgaria the most corrupt country in the E.U. Why does Britain seek independence? I live in Texas – I’m close to the Mexican boarder. Mexico is a place that has fallen into complete darkness, but unlike Mexico I totally believe that the good citizens of Bulgaria have much more power than their oppressors are allowing them to think they have. I believe Bulgaria needs a revolution to change, but on a selfish note I don’t want any of my Bulgarian friends to be hurt.
What was the first thing you learned about MP Delyan Peevski?
About 5 seconds after landing in Sofia I learned that Peevski was the culmination of everything wrong. Literally everyone I spoke to mentioned his name endlessly. I wish Peevski had agreed to an interview – maybe the film would be different? I do take a certain pride in the fact that a Peevski owned newspaper referred to me as an agent “posing as a Journalist from Texas”. If that’s true I must be the deepest cover operative in the history of the CIA or KGB or whatever he is accusing me of. All those years of rodeos, football, BBQ and hunting – all for nothing.
How do you think Delyan Peevski will continue to act as well as anyone he is committed to?
When I was finishing the editing not long ago (April) Peevki updates came in almost daily – it was the never-ending story. A filmmaker’s nightmare, a movie that will never end. However the final link was investigator Zahari Tomov who had directly connected Peevski and the CCB bankruptcy to an American bankruptcy lawsuit-taking place in New York. This triggered the U.S. RICO act that allows America to force Peevski into court. Yes we are the bullies of the world, I agree. Anyway he and attorney Sylvia Rolinski elevated the film by providing mountains of documented evidence on how the scams are being perpetrated. Ironically the company that went under because of CCB bankruptcy is located here in Texas. For me it was a sign –perfect circle and a note to end the film on.
Are there other topics and personalities in „Shadows of Sofia“ that you would like to talk about?
Yes there are many other characters in the film – we follow the protestors, Monica Macovei, CCB banking investigator Vera Akhundova, we follow a young politician running for mayor and last but not least the famous Russian punk band Pussy Riot that comes to Sofia to spark a revolution.
What about a sequel?
Sweet Jesus I barely survived the first one.
Did you have any difficulties while shooting in Bulgaria?
In the film I attempt to make the effort look painless, but in reality we were forced to have heavily armed and highly trained personnel along for the entire ride. It was stressful to say the least.
What is the scariest thing about „Shadows of Sofia“ and how can we deal with it?
I see Bulgaria as a canary in the coalmine – Its not that Bulgaria is so much more corrupt than any other country, but because of its small size its become a petri dish representing the coming tide for all other nations. Media, banking, election fraud, judicial consolidation being controlled by secret forces out of public view.
Another scary item is that the film is available in English speaking countries all over the world, but not in Bulgaria. This pretty much proves the films theme about Peevski controlling the media.
Perhaps it will be in Bulgarian theaters, but for now we have created a few Vimeo links –
English subtitles and Bulgarian subtitles. We are asking for a 5$ donation that will be used to translate the film into other languages including Russian. If people are unable to pay – simply message me through the SOSFacebook page and we will issue a code for free access.
In Conclusion – I love Bulgaria – the people, the food, the history and mostly the human spirit. In the end I believe the people will take the power back from the gangsters who have perpetrated this decades long crime, and Bulgaria will again reign supreme as the crown jewel of Eastern Europe.
You can see the announcement and the interview in Bulgarian language HERE.
Interviewer for FrogNews Diana Yonkova