Zift is a film unlike many of our era. Released in 2008 to awards all over Eastern Europe, the Bulgarian film is a black and white neo-noir. Directed by Javor Gardev with a script written by the same man who wrote the original novel that inspired this film, Vladislav Todorov. It is the story of a large bald criminal nicknamed Moth. After a failed robbery Moth is imprisoned where he befriends a well-read one-eyed cellmate named Van Wurst who warns him to stay clear of femme fatales. But it is all too late. Moth is released after the Communist revolution in Bulgaria to find a radically changed socialist Sofia. The city has been drastically aesthetically altered and interestingly enough most of his criminal comrades are now Communist Party elites. Everyone pursues Moth hoping to find a black diamond they believe he hid prior to his imprisonment.
The film’s dialogue is one line of poetry after another; all sewn into storyline so dark that film-noir is a bit of an understatement. One important note is given in the very beginning of the film, that zift means asphalt in Arabic, which used to be chewed as gum in Bulgaria, but it can also mean awful, or a more profane equivalent, in Arabic. The film can be upsetting but in that visual darkness is artistic gold.