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8th March 2023
Cross My Heart
Title of film: A Dark Moment of Faith
Director: Zornitsa Dimitrova
Zornitsa Dimitrova’s stomach-turning short impressed juries across the world, winning not only a Gold Award here at 1.4 but also collecting the Special Jury Prize at YDA in 2021. Now, on its public release, Zornitsa tells us about building a false sense of security, the challenges of shooting with just natural light, and cutting her hair to play Romeo.

Still from A Dark Moment of Faith

Did you grow up in a creative environment? What’s your earliest memory of filmmaking?

I grew up in post-socialist Eastern Europe, where playfulness was considered a waste of time and discipline was the most important thing. That’s probably why I chose a creative path and love telling stories about rebellious characters. 

My earliest memory of directing is after seeing ROMEO+JULIET by Baz Luhrmann. I re-interpreted his modern interpretation in a school play, directed it, cut my hair and played Romeo. 

A Dark Moment of Faith really allows the viewer to become personally invested in a situation that many of us are fortunate enough never to experience first- or second-hand. What first drew you to the subject of human trafficking?

A friend of mine worked at an NGO some time ago. She was helping women who were able to break free from their traffickers, so my first contact with the topic was through her. I talked to some of the girls and heard so many disturbing stories. The common denominator was how every single one of these women felt that moment when they realised what’s happening to them: terrified, betrayed, deceived. It’s called the boyfriend tactic and is often used by sex traffickers. This moment at the end, when everything goes sideways, was essential to me. You lose your freedom, the feeling of falling in love as well as the ability of trusting anyone ever again. 


BTS: Mila Lyutskanova, A Dark Moment of Faith

Tell us about the process of writing the script. How did you keep the striking ending in mind as you were building the rest of the film?

I started from the end. Everything happening before Vicky disappearing into the van came after I knew how the film was going to end. I wanted the audience to feel the shock the victims did, to make their experience tangible to the public. This is why there is a misleading feeling of security, of hope for a brighter future towards the end. 

What were you looking for when casting the characters of Vicky and Vasco (Mila Lyutskanova and Rumen Mihaylov)?

I wanted Vicky to be strong, tough – I liked the idea of her having a masculine side. Mila and I already knew each other while I was writing, so it’s safe to say Vicky’s character was written for her. 

I met Rumen when we were casting and he fit perfectly into my vision: Vasco had to be shy enough to be adorable, but not too dorky to be considered harmless. Rumen did an amazing job balancing these two. 

Both Mila and Rumen were a delight to work with and I thank them every chance I get. 


Mila Lyutskanova and Rumen Mihaylov in A Dark Moment of Faith

The film was your graduation film at FABW. What is the best advice you were given during your course?

Stay curious. Keep busy. Find your voice. Create the films that make you happy – with friends or people you like – if you can. If not – make friends to make films with. 

The piece is truly cinematic. Was this impressive visual style something that you had in mind at the start of the project? How did director of photography Anton Ognianov help you achieve this?

We wanted the film to be cinematic and rather moody. I do believe that authenticity and aesthetics are not mutually exclusive. We wanted to tell this harsh and brutally realistic story through a cinematic prism. Anton and I had worked together before, so he already had an idea where I was headed before we ever started talking in detail. He helped in every way he could and working together was such a pleasure. It was based on mutual trust and we made the very best out of the possibilities we had. 

Shooting using available light is how it had to be, because of our small crew and run-and-gun tactics. The film was shot in four, very generously planned shooting days. Since we were using only natural light, it had to be that way. We shot super-early in the morning and had extra-long lunch breaks every day, waiting for the sun to set again. 

We had a rough shot list for each scene. We knew what we needed to make the scenes work, but were also able to adjust at any point – both visually and acting-wise. This freedom made everybody alert, happy and involved. I’ve heard the phrase “Film is a Living Creature” before. On our set this was very much the case. 


BTS: A Dark Moment of Faith

What challenges did you encounter during the production?

During the final scene of the shoot, which is also the last scene in the film, the police came by and told us to piss off (literally) because they had just announced the lockdown in Bulgaria. We were waiting for the blue hour and they told us to be gone in 15 minutes. This was truly the only time my heart skipped a beat. We shot the last scene in 15 minutes (in the setting sun), expecting them to come back. They never did. So, we shot the scene one more time during the blue hour.

You’ve mentioned before that you hide a middle finger in every one of your films. When and how did that tradition start?

I think it comes from my stubbornness and people telling me I can’t do or am not allowed or shouldn’t be doing something. My response often is: Watch me. There lies so much power in a NO. 

My first application (at another film school, not the FABW) was rejected with a juicy letter stating I was talentless and unrealistic. This letter is now on my wall. This is how the tradition started, at least in a filmmaking context.

BTS: A Dark Moment of Faith

What goals do you have for your career in directing? Do you see yourself continuing with commercial work?

I enjoy doing commercial work a lot – actually I have been explicitly studying directing for advertising at the FABW and signed recently with Zauberberg Productions in Germany. 

I am currently looking for new UK and US representation, so if you are interested in working together / collaborating – please do get in touch.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I am working on my first feature, editing a project I shot recently and writing a small passion project. I have also been exploring dramaturgy of series recently. “Form follows function.”



Zornitsa Dimitrova website



A Dark Moment of Faith

Screenplay & Director: Zornitsa Dimitrova

Director of Photography: Anton Ognianov

Editor: Tobias Wilhelmer

Composer: Alexander Wolf David

Song by: Mila Lyutskanova

Original sound: Veselin Zografov

Re-recording Mixer: Marco Dahl

Sound Design: Julian Berg

Casting Director: Joana Ilieva

Production Designer: Severina Stoyanova

Production Design Assistant: Boris Georgiev

Costume Designer: Maria Vasileva

Make Up Artist: Vera Boyadzhieva

VFX-Producer: Lukas Ritter

Compositing: Boris Katrev

Colorist: Manuel Portschy

1st AD: Adriana Kalitsin

1st AC: Boris Mitrev

2nd AC: Veselin Hristov

Gaffer: Georgi “Kaskata” Tzvetkov

Data Wrangler: Radi Tsenov

Dialogue Edit: Marius Bohnhardt

Foley Artist: Franziska Arndt

Foley Recording: Julian Berg, Marco Dahl

ADR Recording: Simeon Lozanov