Bilyana Garvanlieva

Portrait of Bilyana Garvanlieva, source: Photograph by Samir Ljuma, courtesy of the author

Bilyana Garvanlieva is a Macedonian director, screenwriter, and dramaturge with many years of experience at the European documentary film scene.

After studying dramaturgy at the Faculty for Dramatic Arts in Skopje, in 1999, she got a scholarship from the German government to study theatre and film arts at Freie Universitӓt in Berlin, whereupon she lived and worked as an independent author there. Her filmographic output includes the documentary films: “The Girl Playing the Accordion” (2006); “The Girl Picking Tobacco” (2009); “The Textile Workers” (2010); “After the Rain” (records of climatic changes) (2011); and “Tetovo Twilight” (2019), released posthumously by her husband, Manuel Tsimer. The first two films were realized for the German national television and earned her the distinguished German film award “Golden Lola”. For representing women in the media, her film “The Textile Workers” won the award “Juliane Bartel” as the best German documentary film in 2010. With the same film, she won the award “The Heart of Sarajevo” for the best documentary film at the 16th Film Festival in Sarajevo.

Since Bilyana Garvanlieva is originally from Strumitsa, a city in eastern part of Macedonia, in her cinematographic oeuvre dominate descriptions of the economic and social life typical for that region. Her close friends and associates note that despite her stellar success both in Europe and wider, Bilyana Garvanlieva never felt fully welcomed and recognized by the cultural institutions in her native country and oftentimes mentioned the issues with the scanty interest of the broadcasting companies for showing documentary films that treat the Macedonian everyday reality through the lens of refined sensibility. On the other hand, though, she was immensely popular with her faithful domestic audience.

After she was diagnosed with a chronic disease, she continued to work while at the same time fighting the disease through her unique documentary-style sensibility, embracing the challenges of her disease afflicted body and the family love shared by her husband, her children, and herself, as showcased in the exhibition “The Loved Ones – Memories of One Shared Life”. After a long disease, she died on September 10, 2016 in Berlin, at the age of 43.

Oftentimes, Bilyana Garvanlieva pointed out that for her, as a female director of documentary films, it is of paramount importance to represent women with dignity, as heroines of the day-to-day life and as women-fighters. This is prominently emphasized in “The Textile Workers” through her depiction of the working class daily routine of the Macedonian textile workers, the ones who today represent the “heroines of transition” as well as a marginalized group with infringed workers’ rights.

Textile workers come to work. Still from the documentary film The Seamstresses, 2010
by Bilyana Garvanlieva. Source:

Industrial zone “East”, Shtip

The industrial zone “east” in Shtip is located 3 kilometers away from the city center. This is the place where the textile factories “Makedonka” and “Mavis” are situated and where the movie “The Textile Workers” was filmed. There is no access for people with a physical disability.