The festival „Be the Change”, which is organised and financed solely by volunteers and without the support of corporate sponsors, grants or the municipality, is taking place for the fifth successive year and for the third time in Varna. The main organisers of the event are the authors of the site dokumentalni.com and the Autonomous labour syndicate.
The festival takes place at the scene “Rakovina” in the Seaside Garden in Varna between 23 and 25 August. The program starts every day around 18:00. Six films on social issues will be screened, some of them for the first time in Bulgaria. Speakers from Bulgaria and guests from abroad will participate in discussions about the social struggles that have shaken the country and the world in recent years. The development of the autonomous syndicalism, which is getting more and more influential in Bulgaria will be among the discussed topics. There will also be meeting with the editors of left magazines* and media, with activists from self-organised collectives in Bulgaria and Europe, and there will be a lot of music.
“The Foundation “Documentaries” is the force behind the internet site dokumentalni.com, which has been translating and popularizing documentary movies on predominant social topics, which can be seen rarely, if ever, on the television screen”, said before Baricada Daniela Petkova from the Foundation “Documentaries” – one of the main organisers of the festival. She explained that the topics that these movies deal with are related to serious social problems such as poverty, inequality, economic crisis, ecology, health, human rights and so on.
“We believe that the Bulgarian public could and should learn from the experience of other countries that face the same problems. We hope that the knowledge that can be derived from seeing such kind of documentaries will help the people to find solutions for the pressing social problems of the Bulgarian society today. By way of these free screenings, we hope to reach more people and to direct their interest towards our site, where more than 450 films, translated into Bulgarian, can be watched”, Penkova explains.
“We organized the first festival in 2013. It was influenced by the events of those times – the social rebellion against the price of electricity. Due to these social upheavals various left and anti-authoritarian groups formed after those protests and they started developing activity in a few cities in the country. Social centers appeared in Sofia, Varna, Veliko Tarnovo. A lot of assemblies, cooperatives and other initiatives related with grass roots self-organisation and activism came into being. The festival was part of this process and was a mutual activity of many of the participants in those initiatives”, Evgeni Nikitin from the Autonomous Labour Syndicate added before Baricada.
He says that the goal of the festival is to give publicity to the social problems in Bulgaria, so that the people acquaint themselves with dozens of initiatives that continued their activities after the 2013 protests. “From then on, the festivals became a very successful tradition – both as experience and as results. Festivals have always been attracting new people to what we do and have been giving encouragement and enthusiasm to the “old” activists. What is specific about our festival is that is completely self-organised and self-financed. It is the deed of volunteers, and we finance it through sharing its costs between ourselves”, Nikitin explained further.
Daniela Penkova has underlined that luckily the expenditures are not high. The ambition of the festival is “to leave” Varna’s center. “We are considering making more regularly screenings, possibly leaving the center and reaching the more distant quarters of Varna. Unfortunately, this year we couldn’t organize the festival in other cities, as we had planned, but we hope we will able to realize that goal soon”, she says.
According to Nikitin the independence with regard to financing gives freedom of action and expression during the festival. The organisers also show that people can organize outside the so-called “market mechanisms” of modern capitalism and outside the state structure, cooperating on the basis of voluntary work and mutual help.
“The films we are going to present this year deal mainly with the conditions of labour and the labour struggle in other countries in the last decades. Given that workers in Bulgaria face different problems and don’t know how to overcome them and how to claim their rights, we decided to show the example of their brothers in the Western and in other countries. We have selected a collection of films from 6 different countries. We hope that this information will help the self-organisation of Bulgarian workers”, Daniela Penkova believes.
The organisers assure the public that this year the festival has greater variety. “Our main topic is the labour struggles of the last year – the strikes of miners, dressmakers, workers from Piccadilly and Max Telecom. The Autonomous Labour Syndicate is directly involved in most of the strikes and a lot of the workers that fight against employers and the state will be present at the festival”, Nikitin points out.
During the festival there will be a meeting with the team of the left magazine dVERSIA, which has been gathering popularity in the last two years, the organisers further explained. There will be also lectures on feminism and anarchism, and a national campaign for tax justice is to be announced on the first day of the festival.
The festival’s guests will be able to acquaint themselves with the only antiauthoritarian social center in Sofia – The Factory “Autonomy”, and with many other initiatives of the antiauthoritarian left in Bulgaria. Guests from abroad will also speak, as the presentation of the Bulgarian-Austrian institute for peace research VIPR (Varna Institute for Peace Research) is expected with great interest.
“We believe that the social problems need a common and strong resistance by those who suffer the injustice of today’s society. We hope to contribute at least a little to the creation of this front. The critical interpretation of the problems is only the first step in this direction, which must be followed by the formulation of solutions and their concrete application in practice. Only if we unite in our desire for change, we could guarantee a better future for all. We believe that a better world is possible and would like to help in its making”, concluded Daniela Penkova.
“We will certainly continue to organize such kind of festivals. We will aim to make the event more different and better each year. At the same time we will preserve its basic principles – to be non-commercial, to be self-financed, to be free, to be anti-capitalistic and to express the hope for a better future”, says in his turn Nikitin.
* Baricada also received an invitation to participate in the festival and is thankful for it. Regretfully, due to the inability for a member of our team to be present in Varna in the days of the festival, we had to reject the invitation.