Saturday, 4 June 2011


The residents of Belene, a small Bulgarian town, have been waiting for the construction of a nuclear power plant for over twenty years, and watch the cranes and clouds of smoke in anticipation. Aside from the sudden influence of industrialisation, the townspeople only seem to have one problem – a mosquito infestation. Some residents have found innovative ways to deal with them, such as switching on a high-power fan or vacuuming the air at random intervals, but before long it becomes clear that this fixation is a mask for a number of other problems which lie just beneath the surface. The camera takes on the role of casual observer, allowing each resident to tell their story to the audience.

Andrey Paounov’s shrewd documentary asks many questions and leaves the answers, if any, to the viewer, and as a result it is difficult to understand the intended effect. Each interviewee offers a unique perspective on the town’s many issues, and the cumulative effect is somewhat depressing. A sinister commentary is made on the town’s future when it is revealed that the ex-mayor, the man who was responsible for much of Belene’s city planning and industrial development, also played a key role in the local Communist-era labour camp. While the film does concern itself heavily with the impossibility of leaving the past behind, Paounov does not forget to balance his piece with humour and wit, and at times it feels as if Christopher Guest and his team have taken on small-town Eastern Europe.