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RADIOGRAM (2017, BUG) – 6.5/10

Another film that takes us to Bulgaria during communism and the rule of the Romanian counterpart of Nicolae Ceausescu, Todor Živkov. The year is 1971 and the communist dictatorship is at its peak, but the influences of modernity and the spirit of the Western, free society are somehow making their way to even the biggest backwaters. There they are BBC, Radio Luxemburg, Radio Free Europe, which are secretly listened to in the mountainous areas where the Turkish minority also lives, and it is especially under attack from the communist regime. Commissar Zaharijev is particularly zealous, harassing the local population for listening to Western radio stations or humming traditional Turkish songs.

The harassment is at such a level that the Turkish population is even asked to change their names to Bulgarian, just as, we will understand, Zaharijev himself did, who is also ethnically Turkish, but now he is a bigger Bulgarian and communist than Zhivkov himself. The family of his former friend Ali, who married Zaharijev’s love from his youth, is especially under his attack. Yasmin also has a son Ahmet with her, who secretly spends his days listening to rock’n’roll coming from forbidden radio frequencies. How those who listen to those evil, decadent sounds that corrupt the people pass by, we see already in the first scene when Zaharijev and the team take away a young man caught in the night enjoying the Beatles and Beach Boys.

When Ahmet’s radio breaks down, his father will set out on foot for a hundred kilometers long and dangerous journey to the city to get a new receiver, and this journey will actually be Ali’s symbolic response to oppression and totalitarianism, the violence that the whole place and everyone is experiencing. “Radiogram” stands out with its great photography and it was shot in excellent locations of the Bulgarian province, but I still expected something more from this drama because it is obvious how this film was shot in modest conditions. However, this wouldn’t be a problem if the acting and direction weren’t somehow thin, unconvincing, zitherish at the level of an average television movie.