The Boy Who Was a King

“A mesmerizingly strange true-life tale… a documentary delicacy to savour.” — Trevor Johnston, Time Out

Director: Andrey Paounov
Year: 2011
Country: Bulgaria, Germany
Running time: 90 mins
Genres: History, Politics

Producer: Martichka Bozhilova
Photography: Boris Missirkov, Georgi Bogdanov
Editors: Svetla Neykova, René Frölke, Georgi Bogdanov, Andrey Paounov
Music: Ivo Paunov
In Bulgarian and English, with English subtitles
Colour and B&W

With: Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Festivals: Toronto, London 2011

With warmth and humour, auteur documentarian Andrei Paounov applies an absurdist eye to the rollercoaster relationship of a European royal and the country he was born to rule. It was 1943 and Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany when Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was crowned Tsar. He was seven years old. Two years later the monarchy was overthrown and the royal family sent into exile. It was 50 years before the Communist regime collapsed, and suddenly Simeon was welcomed home by massive crowds chanting ‘We want our King!’. Creating a new political party, he sought democratic power as prime minister in 2001.

Abetted by the personable man himself and a trove of archival gold, Paounov is a seductive story-teller, with a sly gift for lateral excursions which turn out to yield treasure. Niftily staged commentaries from citizens, both dedicated and disaffected, provide a throaty chorus to Simeon’s urbane, ironic views of nationalism, monarchy and class relations. — BG

NZIFF STAFF PICK: Bill Gosden