Bulgarian playwright Krasimira (Katerina Stoykova-Klemer) has won second place in a play writing contest, and her prize is to fly to the United States, Kentucky to be exact, for the premiere of her play. She has visions of a trip where she can make a name for herself and be appreciated as a playwright. Also, she’d like to see live horses in person.
The reality, however, is that she’ll be lucky if there’s anyone at the airport to pick her up, and most everyone is too busy with their own lives to act as entertainment for the few days she’s around. Despite being left to her own devices, Krasimira sets out to experience the area in her own way, sometimes making friends, other times just taking in all that she can in the limited time she has. To Krasimira’s credit, she acclimates rather fast, with a genuine enthusiasm for Kentucky that seems lost on even its residents.
Thom Southerland’s Proud Citizen hints at a typical fish-out-of-water tale, but offers more depth. As Krasimira’s trip unfolds, we learn more about her through the snippets of her play that we see, and also through her own voiceover narration. Her past is complex, and her perspective unique to those around her.
The cast is peppered with true to life characterizations, and feels true instead of stereotypical or absurd. The film has moments of humor and levity, but it is not played for goofy laughs or “here comes the kooky foreigner” comedy. Instead the film works with a black-and-white palette to offer up a raw view, coupled up with a compositional and editorial style that gives a documentary feel. Everything that happens, even the seemingly more manipulated moments of drama, still maintain a realistic authenticity. Krasimira’s story is her own, but I don’t think it could be seen as that uncommon.
Overall, Proud Citizen is a pleasantly paced drama, one that manages to convey the loneliness that Krasimira sometimes faces while never veering off into maudlin territory. If you’ve ever ventured out alone to visit a different country, or even a different city or state, you can relate to those moments of feeling adrift while you try and settle into the experience. You can also relate to those times when you make a real connection, with either the new people you meet, or even the location. All those touchstones are here, authentically rendered.
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