Maxim Behar Commented on the Successes of our Compatriots Abroad in the "Focus Day" Program of Radio FocusJune, 2023
Host: We'll be talking to Maxim Behar, presenter, and PR expert, who is already on the line. Good morning.
Maxim: Good morning, listeners of Radio Focus.
Presenter: I am happy to welcome you to the studio of Radio Focus. Today we have a very pleasant topic to discuss. Let's start with director Teodor Ushev, who won the grand prize at the Beverly Hills Film Festival yesterday with his debut feature film, "F1.618." What do you think?
Maxim: This is wonderful news, Teodor Ushev is an extraordinary artist. This award is another brooch to his, another recognition of his talent. A recognition for Bulgaria, of course. I know that very often in Bulgaria the success of our compatriots abroad is critically accepted. But more people talk about Bulgaria, the more it becomes known, and we feel like citizens of the world, alongside people like Teodor Ushev, Vesco Eshkenazi, athletes, actors, musicians, theatre artists and many others. But Bulgaria is a small country compared to those who give out the big awards and every success makes half of Bulgaria happy, the other is unhappy because they think we are underappreciated.
Host: The fact is that as we are talk about Teodor Ushev, reviews of the film are 50/50. But the fact is that art is subjective as well, everyone is entitled to an opinion. The question is, who speaks up most often? Because in Bulgaria the "hate" is at a pretty good level, but are those who do it critics or not?
Maxim: The big change in the world came about 15 years ago when every person on this planet had a media in their hands. Prior to that, only those who understood could speak on media of any type. The televisionchannels invited film critics, specialists or musicians who could evaluate the work of their colleagues or those they related to. Now, however, we are in an incredible media revolution, as anyone can speak their mind without limits. Because anyone can write, express an opinion on social media, even if they don't understand the topic, and it reaches many people quickly. We must take this into account, because this reality has its disadvantages, but also its advantages. Because people like Teodor Ushev, Vesco Eshkenazi, Grigor Dimitrov, Nina Dobrev, Philip Kirkorov and many other of our compatriots would hardly want to hear only the most flattering opinions about them. They would hardly want their social media profile to be filled with talk only about how good, great, and superlative they are. A critical view even of those who don't understand much of art is helpful because they are consumers, this should be viewed and accepted from the positive side. Because any artist who decides to make art in a more mainstream way, rather than elitist, should consider that there will be different opinions about their product. This is a powerful driver of creativity, art, sport even, as there is much more control from different opinions and any one artist can get feedback for their product with great accuracy.
Host: Mr. Behar, doesn't every negative review of a work of art lead to a lot more interest?
Maxim: This is possible because the media generate more interest by mentioning the name of the artist or his work. But most importantly, it leads to reflections of the author, artist, whether they have reached the right target, the readers. In recent days I have been reading everything that has been circling around the wonderful novel by Georgi Gospodinov, simply a bow, also respect for Teodor Ushev. Nowhere did I read such big "hatred, malice", somewhere someone might have mentioned it, but they don't deal with politics. For example, Christo Grozev’s phenomenal success at the Grammys with his film about Navalny, met many more negative opinions or controversial comments because it was largely about politics. Where there is politics there is much more emotion, "hate" because politics nowadays totally divides people. But true creativity doesn't harbor as much controversy in its wake. I want to share something with you, that if someone likes me, but I know that person very well and I wouldn't want them to like me, I would be very worried. In the same way, if somebody doesn't like Theo's film or doesn't like Georgi Gospodinov’s "Time Asylum", Christo Grozev’s film, Poli Genova or Ruth Koleva's singing, who are more popular outside Bulgaria. This is not a negative, on the contrary, it makes them more famous, popular and shows them the opinion of the audience. I wouldn't say that every artist should fanatically adhere to the public's opinion, because then they wouldn’t be able to step out of their own box to create something a bit more interesting.
Host: Do you think that a negative review at artwork can react a high interest to them?
Maxim: And more people learn about it. But you know what, regarding the people we're talking about right now, with the greatest respect towards them. They're extremely skilled and popular. We're all proud of them, hopefully they do more and more things that we Bulgarians read, like and that glorify Bulgaria. However, there are about 2 000 000 people we do not know, like Teodor Ushev, Georgi Gospodinov or many others. Each one of them is an ambassador for Bulgaria at their workplace. Be it a taxi driver, a bank clerk in the City of London or a cleaner in a hotel around the world. They all represent Bulgaria and the way they treat their friends, neighbors, colleagues, gives Bulgaria a face. Hardly that many people would watch Theo's film or read Georgi Gospodinov’s novel "Time Asylum", hopefully more would do so, but these are not such mass products. Meeting Bulgarians around the world daily is extremely important because that is how they learn about Bulgaria. If a person is grumpy, frowning, does not greet his neighbors, is unkind, for example in a village near Hamburg, they would say to him "Look at this Bulgarian, what he is like, they must all be like that".
Host: That's way the stories appear, so the question is do people realize that they represent our country no matter what they do?
Maxim: People are different. They can't all imagine that they are ambassadors for Bulgaria, by the way these people we are talking about, including ordinary people, including taxi drivers. They are probably more successful and more productive ambassadors for Bulgaria than any other ambassador anywhere in the world. Because our ambassadors abroad have a certain mandate, functions. They represent Bulgaria on a completely different level. While ordinary Bulgarians who work honestly, with integrity from morning till night are in fact the true and permanent ambassadors of our country, let us hope they understand that. But our compatriots who create phenomenal products are also our ambassadors to the creative circles, to the mass public and we should appreciate it, even when we "hate" them. Usually the people who "hate" don't understand the product, but we must think a little bit and say, "Wait a minute, this guy made it in Hollywood, he made it in a big festival". So, since he's earned these awards let's show him a little respect.
Host: I want to take you back a little bit to Georgi Gospodinov’s novel "Time Asylum" he even made the Booker short list another great artist who thankfully doesn't go unappreciated. Do you think it's hard to create in these times of uncertainty or is it the opposite, that this provokes, because the novel came out right during the COVID wave?
Maxim: I'm not sure that for an artist the times matter. Maybe yes, the COVID period was quite particular, the kind of period I wish no one will experience again from now on. I also wrote a book during that time. When you're sitting at home in unusual conditions 1,000,000 things come into your head.
Host: So, indeed, it provokes?
Maxim: Yes, for sure, a new and unusual situation provokes this. Particularly for people who relate to written speech, who need to express their thoughts somewhere in front of more people, of course it provokes this. Those were extremely unusual years, which, looking back, I don't know if we can evaluate. Personally, I feel like this has never been, when I go back and think about all the restrictions, bans, masks, etc. Yes, these times are thought provoking, but so is any other time. I don't think times are any easier now in 2023 than they were three years ago. Because now we have a recession, a war, we have many generations of whatever you want to call it Millennial's, Z's, F's as I called them in a book I wrote some ten years ago. Whatever you want to call this generation it's creating a totally new environment in business, culture. These are new people who think differently with a different value system. And all that I've listed so far realistically looking at it all together, today is no easier than March 2020. Every time bears its mark, and it all depends on whether a person wants to go beyond the borders of Bulgaria. To write something that will be understood by more people in the world as Georgi Gospodinov and many other Bulgarians do or to write something that will be read by 100-200 people in Bulgaria. This is a matter of feeling, understanding and in fact this is the real art. That's why when someone "hates, criticizes" us we should not take it so personally, but rather we should move forward. A personal example of this is Hristo Stoichkov, how many negative messages were there about him by half the Bulgarian people. He doesn't care at all though, he moves on, he comments. He is a wonderful emblem of Bulgaria. How much disappointment has there been around Grigor Dimitrov, I am talking about sports because they are a more mass product. A lot more people identify with them and a lot more emotion goes into this product. More so than those who will read the novel "Time Asylum". And that's why our successful artists shouldn’t be impressed at all or think about who loves them or who hates them. They need to do their job as well as they can so that they can have their own satisfaction first and then bring happiness or pleasure to their readers, viewers, and fans, whatever they may be.
Host: Thank you Mr. Behar for the wonderful interview. I'll end with your words, "Every time bears its scars."