Sofia's Last Ambulance

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Sofia's Last Ambulance
Official poster
Directed byIlian Metev
Produced byIngmar Trost, Siniša Juričić, Ilian Metev, Dimitar Gotchev
StarringKrassimir Yordanov
Mila Mikhailova
Plamen Slavkov
CinematographyIlian Metev
Edited byIlian Metev, Betina Ip
Release date
  • May 23, 2012 (2012-05-23) (Cannes)
Running time
75 minutes

Sofia's Last Ambulance (a co-production of Germany, Bulgaria, and Croatia) is a feature-length observational documentary film by Bulgarian director Ilian Metev. The film premiered at the 51st Semaine de la Critique (Critics' Week) at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival,[1] where it won the inaugural France 4 Visionary Award (France 4 Prix Revelation).[2] It was the second documentary ever to compete in the section's 51-year history.[3]


Mila and Plamen

Sofia's Last Ambulance opens on an ordinary working day of Krassi, Mila and Plamen, the paramedic crew on one of Sofia's dangerously dwindling fleet of emergency ambulances.[4] The medical infra-structure is in ruins and the ambulance services is one of the hardest hit. Soon the daily pressure on the team is revealed in a sequence of absurdities.[5] Unusual for a work about medical services, patients remained tactfully outside of the frame and sensationalism was rigorously avoided. Camera work focused closely on the faces of the ambulance crew to capture changes in their state of mind[6] in their persistent efforts to work despite lack of means, exhaustion and ineffective bureaucracy.[7][8]


Research for Sofia's Last Ambulance started in 2008. During the research period, Metev met Dr Yordanov, who has been working in the emergency services for 23 years, and was fascinated by his humbleness and industry. Dr Yordanov and his two teammates were responsible for the most critical cases in the capital. The observational documentary was then shot over the period of two years,[9] with the shooting crew consisting of Metev and sound recordist Tom Kirk planted in the back of the ambulance, trying to be as discrete and invisible as possible.[10] The film was a co-produced in association with German television channel WDR, German/French channel Arte, American equity fund Impact Partners, Bulgarian National Film Center, the Croatian Audiovisual Centre and the German Film und Medienstiftung NRW. Sales agents are Berlin-based Films Boutique.


  • Doctor Krassimir Yordanov as himself
  • Nurse Mila Mikhailova as herself
  • Driver Plamen Slavkov as himself


Sofia's Last Ambulance premiered at the 51st Critics' Week in Cannes. The AFP wrote that "after the screening filmmakers and protagonists were in tears. Number of spectators also."[11] Jay Weissberg of Variety described the film as "rigidly constructed and deeply human" and Julien Gester of Libération called it a "fine and strong investigation of a state of crisis."[citation needed]

Social impact[edit]

At the premiere of the film in Sofia, the Bulgarian health minister Desislava Atanasova admitted that "Sofia's Last Ambulance reflects the reality of things" and pronounced that since the film, two new emergency response units have been opened up in the capital to speed up response times; ambulance crews' wages were to be increased by 18%. Protagonist and emergency doctor Krassimir Yordanov criticized that these reforms were insufficient to address the true cause of the problems: chronically low wages that makes medical professionals leave in droves. Despite 25-years experience in the job, his monthly pay is "less than the weekly pay of any colleague in other European Union countries".[12]

Selected awards[edit]

Festival Country Category Award Jury Date
51st Critics' Week, Cannes Film Festival France Feature Film Competition France 4 Visionary Award Céline Sciamma (France),Victor-Emmanuel Boinem (Belgium),Kim Sehee (Korea), Ryan Lattanzio (US),Bikas Mishra (India) May 2012
47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Czech Republic Documentary Competition Best Documentary Feature[13] Ron Xerxa (US), José Luis Cienfuegos (Spain), Tizza Covi (Italy), Pamela Jahn (UK), Jiri Konecny (Czech Republic) July 2012
Prizren Dokufest Kosovo Documentary Competition Best Balkan Documentary[14] Marta Andreu (Spain), Srdjan Keċa(Serbia), Cinta Peleja (Portugal) July 2012
13th Mediterranean Film Festival Bosnia Herzegovina Feature Film Competition Grand Prix[15] Jovan Marjanović, Doron Tsabari (Israel), Zdenko Jurilj (B&H) August 2012
Zurich Film Festival Switzerland Documentary Competition Special Mention[16] Jessica Yu (USA),Mohamed Al-Daradji (Iraq),Philippe Diaz (France),Janus Metz (Denmark) September 2012
2-in-1 Intl. Film Festival Russia Feature Competition Best Sound[17] Jean-Claude Brisseau (France), Peter Baxter (UK), Mark Cousins (UK),Bakhtiyar Khudoinazarov (Russia) October 2012
DOK Leipzig Germany International Feature Competition Silver Dove[18] Larry Kardish (USA),Paweł Łoziński (Polonia),Marina Razbezhkina (Russia),Martha Orozco (Mexico),Susanne Schüle (Germany) November 2012
German Documentary Film Awards Germany Feature Competition Best Documentary Film[19] Michael Verhoeven, Sung-Hyung Cho, Gereon Wetzel, Dr. Heike Hupertz, Wieland Speck, Prof. Heiner Stadler, Hans-Robert Eisenhauer June 2013


  1. ^ "51e selection de la Semaine de la Critique - 2012". Critics' Week. 2012. Archived from the original on 2017-02-28. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  2. ^ Keslassy, Elsa; Hopewell, John (24 May 2012). "'Aqui y alla' wins Critics' Week top prize". Variety. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  3. ^ Lavalee, Eric (15 May 2012). "Top 20 Alternative Picks for Cannes 2012: Ilian Metev's Sofia's Last Ambulance". Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  4. ^ Petkovic, Vladan (23 May 2012). "Uncompromising view of Sofia's Last Ambulance". Cineuropa. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  5. ^ Weissberg, Jay (24 May 2012). "Sofia's Last Ambulancee". Variety. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  6. ^ Gester, Julien (24 May 2012). "Le mystere des ambulances bulgares". Libération. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  7. ^ Lequeret, Elisabeth (24 May 2012). "Dans le feu de l'action". rfi. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  8. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (24 May 2012). "Cannes Virgin Diary 3 Critics Week Yields Breakouts". IndieWire. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  9. ^ Young, Neil (27 May 2012). "Sofia's Last Ambulance: Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  10. ^ Petrov, Nikola (1 June 2012). "Bulgarian Director Ilian Metev: 'Sofia's Last Ambulance' Can Inspire Change". Novinite. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  11. ^ "Documentaire - "Sofia's last ambulance": le quotidien, sur le fil, de secouristes bulgares". Agence France-Presse. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  12. ^ "Health reforms in Bulgaria after Cannes-winning film". Agence France-Presse. 27 Nov 2012. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  13. ^ "Karlovy Vary's Award Goes to 'Sofia's Last Ambulance". novinite. 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  14. ^ "dokufest announces award winners". dokufest. 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  15. ^ ""Sofia's Last Ambulance" the winner of 13th MFF". 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  16. ^ "Awards of the 8th Zurich Film Festival". 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
  17. ^ "2-in-1 Awards". 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  18. ^ "Großer Zuschauerandrang bei Dokfilmfest". 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-07.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "1. Preis für "Sofias letzte Ambulanz"". Südwestrundfunk. 2013. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-20.

External links[edit]