From Bulgaria to Southend: An evening with Anthony Simmons

In Anthony Simmons' six decades in film he has tried his hand at a variety of forms and genres. Following screenings of a new print of his remarkable first film Bulgarian Village (1947), the Venice Grand Prix winning short documentary Sunday by the Sea (1953), and his charming cycling proficiency polemic No Short Cut (1964), Simmons joined Michael Brooke, curator of BFI Screenonline, on stage at BFI Southbank to discuss his early career.

We hear how Simmons was forced to make Sunday by the Sea himself since he had no success in pitching the idea to established filmmakers. It was in his words a "scripted documentary", in that he had a very clear idea of exactly what he wanted to capture of real life at the beach and even a precise narrative in mind. He describes the difficulty in then adapting what he could find towards the template that had been imagined. The making of Bulgarian Village on the other hand had been far more spontaneous. Simmons tells of how as a recent graduate on the continent, he was inspired to find and make a film about a 12 year old folk dancer who had caused a stir winning a dance competition in Prague. He traced the boy to a village in Bulgaria and through subsequently spending time touring different villages, he was compelled to tell a different story. The unfinished film suffered an odyssey spanning years thanks to a lack of funding and the intervention of Italian customs. Shot soon after WWII had ended, until this event it had never been screened in public.


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