LAZARINA TODOROVA: Documentary Filmmaker, Storyteller, Experimental Artist

I titled this site after my award-winning feature documentary LIFE AFTER BABYLON: The Jungle Diaries which focused on personal biographies within a broader social movement of dissent. How do we imagine and re-create our lives outside a dysfunctional civilizational model based on short-term profit and ecological devastation, which compromises personal creativity and community cooperation?

I continue to live the question as an independent media creator, never motivated by commercial incentives or assigned market value of my work. As a visual artist, I hold space for the creation of meaning out of the spirit and matter of existence. As a documentary filmmaker, I’ve always viewed my calling as a humane impulse because storytelling is a mediator and mitigator of difference as well as a bridge to human empathy and understanding. As an artist, I feel there are so many ways to depict the seen and unseen worlds. Truth is historical, subjective, transpersonal, political, philosophical, poetic. Perspectives can be purposely or unconsciously one-sided and misleading as well as complex, vital and illuminating. To commit to the challenging and responsible undertaking of this medium is a deep passion beyond my own comprehension. To partake in it for almost 20 years, from art school to my current days, is a gift of continuous revelation. 

For me, the process has been very much like mining for treasures without the distractions of a heavy apparatus or target audience agendas. At my best, I succumb to a natural pace of discovering the story as a river and its tributaries. I would not find the process fulfilling unless I engage intimately with both story and subject. And by intimacy I mean the cultivation of a deep relationship to place and persons depicted, to context and culture and all that weaves in to inform my lens and framework. Large crews, cumbersome tech rigs and division of labor on tight schedules in the commercial  filmmaking model always felt alienating, disruptive and unnatural to me and thus I navigated away from “the industry”. My work evolved and blossomed in the context of organizations’ social justice work, in the fields of personal wellness and environmental health and in communities with high stakes in pioneering new paradigms of living, a new social and bioregional ecology.

My artistic process rarely involves scripting or storyboards from the get-go, leaving breathing room both for my observation and direct participation to shape the emerging story. I dwell in the unconscious as most profound insights, visions, or editing decisions often come to me in the dream state or outside the rational planning approach. I have unquenchable thirst for raw authenticity, cinema verité style, as much as I love to create fictional surrealist landscapes. Sound is a driving force for me, stronger than narration. When narration dominates the structure and form of an art piece, as in most mainstream media, I often feel it is a crutch in storytelling.  I am a minimalist when it comes to voiceover and do not use it as a singular voice of authority, which leads us to uni-dimensional interpretations. I thrive on collaboration with the filming subjects by building rapport, trust and most genuine exchange. I am often told I make the camera invisible for those on the other side and it is truly a deep honor to receive such a high estimation.

I believe digital image gathering and sharing is creating a new syntax, superseding language, for us to exchange perspectives as part of a shared cosmopolitan cultural heritage and is crucial to attaining human solidarity and diversity consciousness.

Production stills from my current work-in-progress BORN: A Butoh Parable:

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