How does a director explore themes of living in a totalitarian society when the state controls the cinema industry? Binka Zhelyazkova, the latest focus of our Hidden Figures series in the Barbican Cinema, grappled with this very issue in one of her finest films, The Tied Up Balloon. The film uses the appearance of a mysterious barrage balloon to create a visually stunning piece of art filled with razor-sharp satire, which tells a story of surveillance anxiety whilst living under Soviet totalitarian rule.
Operating at the forefront of the magical realism and surrealism genres, Zhelyazkova used stunning imagery and symbolism on screen to avoid censorship in Soviet Bulgaria. The fact that she is not known more however, speaks to the fear that the government had towards the power of films to undermine their grip on control.