The British Embassy in Sofia announced in an official press release the decision of King Charles III to award the director and founder of Sofia Film Fest Stephan Kitanov-Kita („the whale“) for his outstanding contribution to the promotion of British cinema in Bulgaria
In the 30th year of the Rock Film Fest and all the initiatives of the House of Cinema, sparked by Stefan Kitanov’s quest to introduce cinephiles to the best of the timeless world of cinema, the special news of the recognition was announced, he received for his longstanding work – the British Embassy in Sofia officially announced the decision of King Charles III to award Stefan Kitanov the title of Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the promotion of British cinema in Bulgaria.
The beginning was set in the last decade of the twentieth century. In 1993 and 1994, in partnership with the British Council in Sofia and London, the two iconic film and music festivals Rock Film Fest were realised. In 1996, again in association with the British Council, Stefan Kitanov presented for the first time in Bulgaria a complete retrospective of Monty Python’s films to Bulgarian audiences. This special festival – and its most important guest, Terry Jones, was one of the occasions that led to the organisation of other festivals, in which the focus has always been British cinema, to the organisation of the Sofia International Film Festival, which today is a
one of the most important cultural events in Bulgaria, as well as one of the key film festivals in Central and Eastern Europe. Sofia Film Fest continues to present the latest and most significant works of British cinema each year, including in 2023 the British Council’s Five Films for Freedom initiative in the main festival cinema, the Cinema House. In 2014, Sofia was awarded UNESCO City of Cinema status and this decision was largely influenced by Sofia Film Fest’s outstanding international reputation.
Н. Pr. Rob Dixon, British Ambassador. As the founder of the Sofia Film Fest in 1997, following the highly successful Rock Film Fest 1993, Rock Film Fest 1994 and Monty Python Fest 1996, all in partnership with the British Council, Mr. Kitanov has made a significant contribution to the development of cultural relations between the UK and Bulgaria by offering the excellent
British films to Bulgarian audiences.“
Here’s what Stefan Kitanov had to say on the news of HM King Charles III’s recognition:
„My work with the British Council in Sofia, as well as my 7-month stay in the UK in 1993 and 1994 on a British Council scholarship, have been at the heart of everything I have been able to achieve since 1992. The title
Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire is outstanding recognition of the achievements of myself and the team I have worked with over the past little over 30 years. I am proud and extremely grateful for this recognition!
I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank King Charles III for this high honour, and to invite him to plant a tree in the symbolic Sofia Film Fest forest next to the tree of the daughter of the greatest Briton in cinema – Charles Chaplin.
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About the Order of the British Empire
The Order of the British Empire is awarded for outstanding service to the community and service that stands out as an example to other people.
The Order of the British Empire recognises outstanding merit and achievement in the arts and sciences, for contributions to society beyond public service and for work with various charities and organisations geared towards improving the welfare of the people.
The Order was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and has five degrees. It is awarded for both civilian and military merit.
The five degrees of the Order in descending order are:
Knight or Dame of the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE)
Knight Commander (KBE) or Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, (DBE)
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Today, the Order of the British Empire is a knightly order of British democracy. The sole criterion for its award is valuable contribution in a wide range of fields. Citizens of other countries may also be awarded an MBE for services to the United Kingdom and the British people. Today the Order of the British Empire has over 100,000 members worldwide.
The Order’s official chapel is in St Paul’s Cathedral. Its motto is „For God and Empire“.
The other recipient of the honorary title is Valentine Walyowski, gardener at the British Embassy residence in Sofia.
For 30 years Valentin Valyovski developed and maintained the garden of the British Embassy residence in Sofia, which is now considered by many to be the best representative garden in Bulgaria. On an area of 1.5 acres there are 38 trees (13 species), 30 creeping roses (15 species in different colours) and 300 rose bushes (40 species), including typical English varieties such as Princess Charlotte and Rosa Glauca. In 1998, King Charles, then Prince of Wales, planted a walnut tree, which Mr Walyowski made the centrepiece of the garden. Mr Walyowski is a specialist in his field who exchanges experiences with his colleagues at Kew Gardens and Hampton Court in the UK. He regularly shares his knowledge and has helped a local school create their garden.
„I have been working as a gardener in the UK for thirty years. My first encounter with His Majesty King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, was in 1998 when he planted a walnut tree in the garden of the residence. During our second meeting, he thanked me personally for my care of the tree he had planted.
At each of our meetings, I was impressed by his natural demeanor and attention to each of us. When I found out about my nomination for the award (British Empire Medal), I was very surprised and excited. After my approval, I can only say that this is a great honour and recognition for me.“
King Charles III
The Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) is awarded for outstanding achievement or service to the community with a long-term and significant impact and which can serve as an example.
The Medal of the British Empire is awarded for practical services to the local community.
His Majesty the King awards these honours on the proposal of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Development.
„I am very pleased that His Majesty has decided to recognise Mr Kitanov’s services to the presentation of British cinema in this country for over 30 years. As the creator of Sofia Film Fest in 1997, following the hugely successful Rock Film Fest 1993, Rock Film Fest 1994 and Monty Python Fest 1996, delivered in partnership with the British Council, Mr Kitanov has made a significant contribution to the development of cultural relations between the UK and Bulgaria by bringing excellent British films to Bulgarian audiences.
His Majesty’s decision to award Mr Valentin Valyovski the British Empire Medal is a fitting and well-deserved recognition of his over 30 years of public service and the dedication with which he has developed and maintained one of the most beautiful gardens in Bulgaria. The combination of an English garden and Bulgarian roses that Valentine has created with hard work and patience is a magnificent example of the UK and of the close British-Bulgarian partnership,“ said British Ambassador to Bulgaria Dr Rob Dixon.
King Charles III visited Bulgaria twice as Prince of Wales. On his first visit in 1998, His Majesty met President Stoyanov, after which he donated 10 ambulances to the Tsaritsa Ioana Hospital in Sofia and visited a Roma foundation in the Stolipinovo district of Plovdiv. During his second visit, in March 2003, he visited Stalinovo. His Majesty met with President Plevneliev and Prime Minister Saxe-Coburggotsky, then travelled to Varna, where he visited the Gavroche Children’s Centre and met with the founder of Karin Dom.