[DIFF Interview]…’Faith, Love and Whiskey’ Writer/Director Kristina Nikolova

There’s that old saying that you can never go home. But if you could, what would you do? In writer/director Kristina Nikolova’s film Faith, Love and Whiskey she shows us that it really is possible but also that doing so can also drastically change your life. In her first feature length film, Bulgarian born Nikilova shares with us a story about one trip back home one summer that is as she says “taken to an extreme with an added life choice“.

Prior to its screening, Go,See,Talk got a chance to sit down with writer/director Kristina Nikolova to discuss her film. For those not familiar with it, check out the trailer below as well as the highlights from our interview…

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- Let’s talk about the genesis of the film? What inspired this story and what made you want to tell it?

I wanted to tell the story of one my summers going back home taken to an extreme with an added life choice. Bulgaria has a high immigration rate and every summer the country gets filled with immigrants flowing back. We drink and dance and behave like there is no tomorrow (which is the daily life of a lot of Bulgarians). On one hand I wanted to capture those days of abandonment and freedom. On the other hand I wanted to deal with a girl faced with a tough choice – a possibility for a future and responsibility to her family versus a destructive love.

- This is your first feature length film. How did your short film experience help you with Faith Love and Whiskey?
It is my first feature as a director but I have shot 6 features and multiple shorts before. The experience as a DP helped me greatly as I had confidence on set. I knew what takes how long and how much I can get in a day realistically. Having directed 5 shorts before helped me mainly in working with actors.
- The film is beautifully shot and I loved the cinematography. It was almost like a moving photo album. As the director, are you responsible for staging and framing each shot or is that the DP?
I come from cinematography and I did a great deal of tests before I decided on format (S16mm) and cinematographer (I actually did a DP casting session). Once I trusted him Alexander, I gave him a lot of freedom. We decided on most shots together on set as we didn’t have time in prep to shotlist. He won the Kodak Vision Award in Slamdance 2012 with the film.
- Faith Love and Whiskey is your film, as you wrote and directed it. It is very light on dialog, even left out in places, and we see the mostly just the reactions of the characters as opposed to exposition. Was that your intent all along?
I wasn’t planning on having so little dialogue, it happened organically during the shoot and then the editing. Val, the main actor, is brilliant and he always helped me figure out way of showing it versus saying it.
- We see in a scene where Val translates for Scott just how afraid he is of losing Neli. Val very minimally showed lots of conflicting emotion and stole the scene. You cast Valeri Yordanov for the part so what about him made him right in the role?
Valeri Yordanov is an incredible actor and I was so lucky to have him in the film. He is a big star in Bulgaria but agreed to do my film as he knew it came from a personal space (and he had just directed his first feature that came from a personal story as well). Like all great actors, he carries everything in the eyes, and one little movement on his face expresses and translates all the emotions the viewers need to feel.
- There’s that old saying that, “you can never go home”. In Faith Love and Whiskey Neli goes home and finds that that’s where she belongs. But other times going home reminds you why you left in the first place. If you were playing Neli, what would be your reaction?
I was born in Bulgaria but I have lived in America for 13 years. Every time I go back, I am so happy for the first few days and then soon after I realize that it is no longer my home and that the only home left is my childhood.
-  At the end Neli mentions “faith, love and hope” and that “those three are all we’ll even need“. I agree, but where does the Whiskey come into play? 
In Christian Orthodox religion there is a popular trinity of sisters Faith, Love and Hope, whose mother is St. Sofia (also the name of Bulgaria’s capital and where the film takes place). But in Bulgaria as well as many other places in the world, for the youth hope is replaced by whiskey.

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The 2012 Dallas International Film Festival runs from April 12th to April 22nd. Click here to find show times for Faith, Love and Whiskey.

Go,See,Talk would like to thank the Dallas Film Society and Kristina Nikolova for their help and time in setting up this interview. You can click the following link to read the featured story of “Faith, Love and Whiskey” for the 2012 DIFF.