Bulgaria / France, 1996 (MIFF 1997, Documentaries)
Director: Eldora Traykova
A bear-ward is a kind of busker. In Bulgaria some itinerant folk still make a living from owning and exhibiting performing bears. They frequent the tourist spots with an accordion, violin or rebeck, and a towering bear on a chain. The bear dances to a tune or does impersonations on cue ('Show us a German lady on the beach!'). The bear also represents good health and the wards encourage passers-by to touch the bear for a long life and put a few coins in a cup.
Eidora Traykova's film introduces us to a number of bears and their owners. For these people the bears are both their livelihood and members of the family; they respond to charges of cruelty, and reflect on the hazards and pleasures of their trade. Of Men and Bears is an unsentimental portrait of a rare tradition and its relationship to Bulgaria's troubled economy.