Life on pause by Anthoniy Hristov wins Civil Society Pitch 5
16 April 2024

Civil Society Pitch

the intensive development program for documentary filmmakers and NGO representatives organized by One World Romania Association, ended on April 13, during One World Romania International Documentary & Human Rights Film Festival, in Bucharest, with a public pitch showcasing five projects from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. 

Life on pause, directed by Anthoniy Hristov and devised in collaboration with Single Step (Bulgaria), was awarded the prize of 4,000 Euros for development by a jury consisting of Elena Martin, documentary film producer; Martichka Bozhilova, producer, director of Balkan Documentary Center and Sofia DocuMental Film Festival; and Viera Čákanyová, documentary filmmaker.

"With great access to the characters and strong personal motivation regarding the topic, this documentary project promises to convey multilayered perspectives on what it means to be a queer person in contemporary society. To achieve this goal, it uses a convincing narrative structure and addresses the topic with urgency and sensitivity at the same time." – jury motivation.

In February 2023, the Bulgarian court delivered a devastating blow, ruling that transgender people will no longer have the right to change their personal documents, rocking a community already under-attack. How do you exist in a country whose entire legal and administrative system does not recognize your existence? Life on pause is a creative documentary about Gabriela, Eda and Valentin, three young and vibrant transgender people, as they strive to fight state discrimination, assert their personhood and claim their place in society against all odds in Bulgaria, Europe’s human rights frontier.


Anthoniy Hristov graduated in Film Production, specializing in Directing, from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2020. He made his mark on the Bulgarian film scene in 2022 by being picked for the Stoyan Kambarev foundation’s annual film competition. His film Flea has won him the competition’s jury award. Furthering his education, Anthoniy completed an MA program in Directing for the screen in 2023 at the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. That same year marked a significant milestone in his career as he secured funding for and produced his most ambitious short fiction film to date, a 30-minute narrative involving the use of 2D animation, titled Cats Have No Roots.

Life on pause represents Anthoniy’s directorial debut in documentary filmmaking. The project bears personal significance to him as a transgender male who – prior to the Supreme Court’s restrictive ruling – successfully amended the sex marker and names on his personal documents in 2018. His intimate connection to the subject matter infuses the film with authenticity and a deep understanding of the nuances involved in the transgender experience.

“I am extremely thankful to Civil Society Pitch for provoking me to begin the development of Life on pause and providing space and mentorship for young directors like me. I would also like to thank my mentor from the program, Mona Nicoară, and my creative producer, Svetla Turnin, for all the help and support they have given me and the project so far. I must say that all the projects this year were extremely interesting and I am grateful to have met and had the opportunity to pitch side by side with all these young professionals. I hope that I will be able to see on screen each one of the pitched projects. I’m very thankful to the jury for understanding the urgency and supporting the mission of Life on pause. I am hopeful that the making of this film will bring support and advocacy for the rights of transgender people and better understanding of their struggles. Thank you!” – Anthoniy Hristov

Single Step Foundation was founded in November 2016 with the mission to support youth from the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) community, their parents, friends and supporters, in the process of gaining self-awareness, coming out and affirming their sexual orientation and gender identity. Single Step Foundation also established The Steps – the first multifunctional social space for LGBTQI people and their allies in Bulgaria.

The pitch took place on April 13 at the Czech Centre Bucharest and the winner was announced during One World Romania’s Closing Gala at Eforie Cinematheque, before a full house screening of Berlinale winner No Other Land.

The other projects, by Fanni Hatházi, Kosta Karakashyan, Alexandru Ioan Oiță and Anelise Sălan, are all in advanced stages of development and have come a long way since being selected in the program in March 2023, when 16 NGO representatives and 18 filmmakers took part in three days dedicated to matchmaking and shaping a documentary film story. Participants were mentored by documentary filmmakers Mona Nicoară, Oliver Sertic and Radu Ciorniciuc.




One World Romania Association


Administration of the National Cultural Fund


Balkan Documentary Center (Bulgaria), VERZIO International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Hungary), MOLDOX Lab (Republic of Moldova), National University of Theatre and Film "I.L. Caragiale", National University of Arts Bucharest, Master of Anthropology SNSPA, Master of Visual Studies and Society SNSPA (Romania)


Czech Centre Bucharest, KAS Rule of Law Programme South East Europe

The program does not necessarily represent the position of the Administration of the National Cultural Fund. AFCN is not responsible for the content of the program, nor for the manner in which the results of the program might be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary of the grant.


Civil Society Pitch is an intensive one-year program designed to foster collaboration between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and filmmakers from Bulgaria, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, and Romania. The goal of the program is to facilitate a dialogue between activists and visual storytellers and to launch new documentary film projects that address human rights and social issues.