Exploring bold new works from filmmakers around the world, the 53rd New Directors/New Films, our annual festival co-presented with The Museum of Modern Art, officially kicks off on April 3. Ahead of the festival, get to know the filmmakers who speak to the present and anticipate the future of cinema.

Stephan Komandarev shares what he’s learned about the older generation in the making of Blaga’s Lessons.

What made you first want to be a director?

A passion for cinema.

Was there a film or director you were inspired by or continue to be inspired by?

Ken Loach.

In your own words, tell us about your film. What should audiences know?

It is a movie about dignity, focused on the older generation in my country and in Europe, the generation of my parents.

What does it mean to you to show your film at New Directors/New Films?

Challenge and curiosity in the same time.

What was the biggest lesson you learned during the making of your film?

To have complete faith in a great actress who hasn’t made a movie in 30 years.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Not to take myself seriously.

What else do you enjoy doing outside of filmmaking?

To spend time with my kids and learn from them.

What’s a film you saw recently that you enjoyed?

Safe Place (Juraj Lerotić – Croatia).

Seventy-year-old retired schoolteacher Blaga (Eli Skorcheva) has recently lost her beloved husband, a former police officer well-known in the austere, small northern Bulgarian town where she still lives. Determined to purchase a substantial gravesite and headstone for the deceased, the stern-minded, no-nonsense widow continues to work, giving Bulgarian language lessons to immigrants. However, Blaga’s already precarious world is overturned when one afternoon she falls prey to a frightening telephone scam. This is merely the beginning of a tautly conceived thriller that skillfully captures the feeling of a bleak post-Communist society beset by corruption—in both criminal and official capacities. Stephan Komandarev’s entirely gripping film rests on the ever-strengthening shoulders of veteran actress Skorcheva, whose remarkable journey from weather-beaten victimhood to aggressive resolve persuasively transforms the film into a provocative story of individual morality in a world gone wrong.

Stephan Komandarev’s Blaga’s Lessons screens on April 9 & April 14. New Directors/New Films takes place April 3–14. Explore the lineup and get tickets.