Ulli Gladik meets Natasha while the latter woman is begging in Graz and, after a number of conversations, accompanies her to her home of Breznik, a former industrial town near Sofia. Over a period of two years Gladik, a combination camerawoman and director, visits Natasha in Bulgaria and Austria, documenting the young woman´s life: her journeys and traveling companions, her work as a beggar, her home in Graz, her family life and everyday routine in Bulgaria.
Our clichés regarding beggars from the former East Bloc disintegrate with every image. Natasha is no different than we are, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes in love or depressed. Saying goodbye to her 10-year-old son Vasko has become routine, though it is still painful. Natasha´s parents, siblings and her son manage to get by thanks to Natasha´s "trade". Some people comb the formerly state-owned factories and kolkhozes for bits of wire and waste metal that they can sell for a few cents. Natasha, too young to retire, has no job opportunities and virtually no hope for the future and, with the money she makes begging, she tries to make her life bearable in a house that has been under construction for decades now.
She discusses begging with her brother: "It was hard in the beginning. I stared at the ground for the first five days, then I started looking people in the eyes. You´ll never get any money if you just look at the ground."
The handheld camera creates proximity without ever losing respect for the individuals. Gladik´s film portrays Natasha as being strong and self-confident, someone who laughs and struggles, who knows how to celebrate and also what has to be done. A sense that we should feel sorry for Natasha is never conveyed.
Translation: Steve Wilder
Ulli Gladik came to know Natasha when she was begging in Graz. After many, long talks in her hometown Bresnik, near Sofia/Bulgaria, Gladik started to accompany her for more than two years, being cinematographer and director all in one.
Many clichés and prejudices exist about beggars from the "eastern-block". We avoid them and don´t want to see them. Filmmaker Ulli Gladik brings people - Natasha in particular - out of the anonymity of begging and accompanies them for two years on their regular trips to work as beggars in Graz. Natasha comes from Bresnik, Bulgaria. There is no work in Bresnik and Natasha´s begging trips allow her family´s survival in humble surroundings. Through the cold, physical disability and social prejudices suffered at Natasha´s "workplace", a respectful portrait of a young woman emerges.
english print version