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© Dimitar Spasov, 2023


Growing up in Bulgaria during the 2000’s I have visited the country’s Northwest region numerous times and have always been fascinated with the constant changes it has gone through. Similarly to a number of countries and states throughout Eastern Europe, Bulgaria has a history of communism, when its population was evenly spread throughout the country and workplaces were ubiquitous - from factories to even the smallest farms and shops. It was a time when emigration was a fantasy. Contradictory, with the fall of the regime came the depopulation. In particular, younger generations started fleeing the country and moving abroad to find better opportunities. This concern is still highly existent and has a great effect on the Northwest region of the country.


Myself, being one of the young people that moved out of the country in my 20s seeking better education and career opportunities I realised that I wanted to use what I have learned abroad to tell the story of my home country and give voice to people living in those ‘abandoned’ regions. Driven to reconnect with and celebrate the sense of community that I have previously run away from, re-claiming the Bulgarian status quo in a positive light, I sought to collaborate with individuals who have not had the opportunity to leave or decided to stay, specifically from the Northwestern part of Bulgaria, to create an uplifting and celebratory project of the region and its locals.


The project is focused on the research question of Why / How something that was once so alive, now sits abandoned and deteriorating?, and more specifically looks into the Northwest Region of Bulgaria. Severo(zapad) - translated Северо(запад), comes from the Bulgarian word Northwest but also plays on the word западнал meaning abandoned. It aims to research, uncover, and showcase the story of Bulgaria’s abandoned past and its influence on the current relations and affairs in and out of the country. One that is considered the poorest (by statistics) in the whole of the European Union. 


Working on it, my main focus was to tell the story through co-creation. Inspired by Chapter 2 - Nothing about Us Without Us: Co-creation with Communities in the book Collective Wisdom: Co-Creating Media for Equity and Justice, I tried to put people with first-hand experience at the center of it, rather than extracting stories from ‘subjects’ and displaying them to ‘audiences’. In my attempt to visually and volumetrically capture the area in several site visits, I couldn’t meet people who would want to speak on camera as most of those I met have had past experiences of being ‘used’ by media, trying to show the area as poor and abandoned, although I did manage to start personal, off the record, conversations with them, discussing the area, its history and being able to share what I have captured, getting their feedback as well as suggestions for other things to film and places to go to in the region. This allowed me to successfully connect to and understand the area through their memories, views, and experiences and create the immersive documentary it is now. 


Dimensions: 3840x2160

Codecs: MPEG-4 AAC, H.264

Colour profile: HD(1-1-1)

Duration: 14:26

Audio channels: Stereo


Presented at

RCA2023: RCA Battersea & Kensington 

30 June – 3 July 2023

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