2016 IDFA Interview: Petar Dundakov (Composer – The Good Postman)

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What starts as a tale of life in the bucolic backwaters of south-eastern Europe, soon turns into a universal story of human kindness, ambition, frailty and guilt, all served up in equal measure.

Postman Ivan has a new political vision for his small and stubborn Bulgarian village facing the Turkish border. He decides to run for mayor to bring the dying village to life by welcoming refugees. His opponents want either to close their eyes or close down the border and reintroduce communism. Busy on the campaign trail while delivering the mail, Ivan soon learns that while good intentions are not enough, even the smallest deeds matter.

‘The Good Postman’ screens in competition at the 2016 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam where it continues to screen throughout the week. I caught up with the film’s composer Petar Dundakov to discuss the film’s unique take on music ahead of its remaining sold out screenings.

Find more information on ‘The Good Postman’ at the 2016 IDFA HERE

How did you get involved with the film in the first place?
This is my fourth film with the Director. Through the years we developed a good relationship between film and music. The last two films we really made a step forward in creating a unique language in the films. 

How has this relationship evolved from your first film to now?
We started working together since Tonislov’s second film. When I look at the previous films, what I find interesting is that I don’t see any repetition of sound and music from film to film. It is always something-in-the-air. Here, ‘The good Postman’ is influenced by Bulgarian folk music but presented in a contemporary way. This is different from our other films, which have included more jazz or electronic music. 

When you speak of a contemporary musical language for film, do you speaks specifically of your approach to ‘The Good Postman’?
I could say that I try and do this in general but, of course, film is not something you do by yourself. The moment you work on a film you become part of a team and it’s important to keep a communication open. You never make decisions without being in a dialogue with the Director. 

Are you talking about the mixture of classical and contemporary specifically in technological terms or in its presentation?
For me, contemporary is something related to the way of thinking of the times. It is also difficult to separate periods through the process of development without being “cut”. With globalization, we know more about music from all over the world. 

Where did your dialogue regarding the music to ‘The Good Postman’ start?
It was more of a continuation of a dialogue we have developed over four films. Here, it makes a difference when understanding the cliche of film music, which is, of course, on a post production level. Over the years, we have developed a cooperation where we can both create what we need to at the same time. With this, sometimes it changes, of course. We will have sessions and sometimes I create to the image, while other times he creates the image to the music. This is not typical but we both want to music to exist in an independent form. 

How often do you appear on set?
I prefer watching the footage because it is the movie itself. The work of a composer is a lonely job. I like this situation because it makes you more focused.

I know you also work with animation. How does your approach differ from documentary to animation? Is it different?
It is completely different! You can’t make a score in complete sync with the image. To me, animation tests if you are a real film composer. To create a musical form in animation it is a challenge due to the fast changes. You need a special approach to this version of continuity. It is impossible to hide in animation. You really have to go deep to create a unique language. 

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