In 2007 Bulgarian iconographer Jordan Opitz shot and killed a drug addict whom he believed burgled his home. The young addict also ran towards the artist wielding a screwdriver. Jordan used a modified gas pistol to shoot the young man who ran off and died later.
Opitz received a five year prison sentence and was sued by the young man’s family for compensation. The crime and the trial divided the country. The incident took place in Sofia, Bulgaria; a city rife with drug addicts and burglaries to fund their habits. Opitz had been robbed before.
Director Teodor Todorov and producer Robin Chambers went to Bulgaria to interview Opitz, the lawyer who successfully won the compensation verdict, a journalist who knew Jordan, Elijah Tsotsin (a Bulgarian actor) and another addict who was with the murdered man the day he was shot.
A Brush Soaked in Carmine looks at both sides of the case and allows the various parties involved to state their beliefs. It is a story not too dissimilar to farmer Tony Martin from Norfolk, in the United Kingdom who shot and killed a burglar in his home. In 1999, Martin had been burgled several times and, having had enough, shot at the two intruders with a shotgun.
Martin also received a reduced sentence and the surviving burglar also attempted to sue for compensation.The case also divided the country, and to a degree, still does. The main differences in the two cases has to do with the weapon used and the fact that Opitz shot his suspected burglar after he left his apartment.
Todorov takes the time to speak in depth with each person who was involved with the case to varying degrees. We are able to see some of Opitz’ work and how the ruling that enforced his paying compensation has taken everything from him.
Amazingly, the one thing that one takes away from this hourlong documentary is that the legal system seems to believe that Opitz modifying the gas pistol was a form of premeditation. The lawyer; Marin Markovski, obviously used a combination of religion and the law to win his case for compensation.
The interviews show why the case is still so contentious nine years after the fact. No one, least of all Opitz, portrays the artist as a saint. The iconographer is blind in one eye and perhaps a bit too assertive but he is clearly not a murderer.
In many ways it does seem that the Bulgarian government, like Britain’s powers that be, prefer its citizenry not to defend themselves. This is a fascinating look at a crime that really was more a case of self defense rather than murder. It is also reveals a system that would rather pay for drug addicts via compensation rather than treat them as criminals when they steal.
People living in America may find it hard to fathom how a man using a modified gas pistol was not only jailed for five years for defending himself but lost a lot of money to the victim. An underlying message seems to be that the legal system allows religion to be a factor in not only trying the crime but in sentencing the guilty party.
Shot on a shoestring budget, Todorov and Chambers do a brilliant job presenting all sides of this ongoing argument. It is a marvelous insight into a finite amount of Bulgarian denizens. At the end it really answers no questions but it does make the viewer think about the verdict. It also points out the social issues: crime ridden neighborhoods and a large population of younger people on drugs plus a fed up populace.
A Brush soaked in Carmine is a brilliant effort from Todorov and everything fits together nicely. Editor Diana Pavlova slots everything together perfectly, from the re-creations to the interviews of all the men. Each side is given a voice; from the drug addict who lost his mate to the lawyer who made sure Opitz paid dearly for taking a life.