When Stephan Komandarev’s feature The Judgment was greenlighted at the end of 2011, Europe was just starting to see the first Syrian refugees displaced by the civil war in their home country. The day The Judgment was voted as Bulgaria’s foreign-language Oscar submission, Sept. 4, 2015, was at the height of the European migrant crisis, when footage of some 1,000 defiant refugees walking from Budapest to Germany led the news and the image of a Syrian toddler whose body had washed up on a Greek beach shocked the world. A month later, the crisis is showing no signs of subsiding.

Judgement3
The Judgment, Courtesy of Argo Film

Co-written and directed by Komandarev, The Judgment  centers on Mityo, a desperate man who, after losing everything, starts smuggling illegal Syrian immigrants into Bulgaria through a steep mountain pass on the border with Turkey and Greece. Left at the mercy of the Judgement Mountain and seeking help from his estranged son, Mityo is trying to atone for a terrible sin he had committed 25 years before (watch a trailer above). Like other Balkan countries, Bulgaria has been seriously impacted by the migrant wave, with thousands entering the country illegally, most of them en route to Western Europe.

syrian-refugee-crisis-photos
Syria-Iraq border, AP

Komandarev was behind The World Is Big And Salvation Lurks Around the Corner — the only Bulgarian film so far to land on the Foreign-language Oscar short list, in 2008