In April 2003, less than a month before the Iraq War broke out the filming of one of the most expensive Hollywood movies of the time began – Troy by director Wolfgang Peterson starring Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. It was based on wars in the epics of antiquity. “I would go to war to defend my life, my way of living and my beliefs.” Morgenpost quoted Brad Pitt from the movie’s opening in Berlin (Berliner Morgenpost, May 10, 2004).

Krassimir Terziev’s documentary Battles of Troy (2005) and the installation based on the latter Background Action (2006-2007) are an account of the Hollywood production in the “Making of ...” style. Troy was shot on locations in Shepperton, UK, in Malta and Baja California Sur in Mexico. The main battle scenes were first to be shot in Morocco but due to the break out of the Iraq War, the producers moved to Mexico – a place of cheap labor for the American production. Another much acclaimed movie was also shot on the Maltese peninsula – James Cameron’s Titanic (USA, 1997) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The largest fresh water basin was built at the time near the small village of Popotla where people live without running water supplies. This had great impact on the environment. Allan Sekula’s photographs document this form of post-colonial intrusion of the entertain- ment industry in the artist’s series Titanic’s Wake.

In the case of Peterson’s Troy not only was the movie shot in a country of cheap labor, but more people were shipped in, paid so little that it was affordable to transport them in an airplane all the way from Bulgaria, 16,000 km away. With the help of the National Sports Academy in Sofia, 300 Bulgarian extras were recruited for the “elite army” because their appearances looked more like the Greek, respectively Trojan faces than those of the Mexicans. They were first paid $12, and after their strike, $22 a day. Their looks turned out to be of little of advantage to themselves, but greatly to the benefit of the entire endeavor.

Krassimir Terziev’s work, built entirely in the style of the “Making of ...” films, does not promote the movie itself, but documents its creation. Taking Troy as an example, through interviews, geographic maps, scenes from the movie and shots from the set, he describes the micro and macro structure of the global economic and geopolitical relationships of the film industry. While superlatives of the type “the most expensive movie of all times” should guarantee its success, Terziev focuses on exploitation and profit-making from people’s misery. It is not the director or the stars who are interviewed for this film, nor the producers or special effects experts – instead he interviews the Bulgarian extras. One of them tells him how his wife was against his going to Mexico because she thought it was one of the mobster scams that end up in human organ trading. To an extent she was right – it was about trading with cheap muscle matter. The head, another extra tells, was not so important. The physiologically silent participants in the movie tell not only about their own experiences. They have photos from Mexico in which for some brief sec- onds they are indeed the stars.

Battles of Troy reveals the multi-layered interweaving of filmed legendary war and the real-life power game taking the form of exploitation, of physical exhaustion in the heat, the accidents on the set, the social and in some cases physical conflicts within the ethnically diverse crowd of extras. And besides the fact that the filming of Troy coincided with the outbreak of an actual war, Terziev has drawn a number of other analogies between the Hollywood pro- duction and military operations. For instance, the Bulgarian extras were chosen by military experts. The Pentagon’s support for the American film industry dates back to the 1920s. After 9/11 and the Iraq War, the partnership has become more active in the psychological battlefield, to promote “The War on Terror.” Peterson has continuously affirmed that Troy in no way compromises the US government. But in fact, the character of Achilles is a replica of America’s “outstanding warrior,” who would give up his own interests, benefits or freedom for the sake of anyone needing the sacrifice.

In 2002 and 2003 Bulgaria was a member of the UN Security Council and along with Poland became part of that “New Europe” that supported the military policy of the White House both ideologically and with armed forces. That alliance of “supporters,” with the naivete of their expectation to gain moral and economic recognition to a certain degree, stands for those 300 disappointed Bulgarian extras.

And last but not least – the maps with which Terziev visualizes the global operations during the filming of Troy resemble the plotting of military operations. The battles there were not just for cheap labor, but also in the name of attracting attention. The Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture, for instance, wanted the scenes to be shot on the original locations of the events – the Hissarluk mount in Çanakkale. But their efforts were in vain. Even the opening of the movie was not there but in Berlin, between the Sony Center and the Museum of Ancient History. Çanakkale received the Trojan Horse built for the movie – the imitation it has always been.

In Berlin, Troy discovered by Heinrich Schliemann returned back to itself. Wasn’t Troy a German adventure, a German legend?

The adventure in Battles of Troy as well as in Background Action, however, is a journey into the Prekariat (lower classes), a kind of Prekariatstourismus (tourism of the lower classes). The battle there was taken up by bodies of low pay against other bodies of even smaller pay. “Sometimes it did seem like a battle between the Bulgarians and the Mexicans,” Borislav Limonov said. Terziev places the Bulgarian participants in the focus of this adventurous conflict without taking sides himself. Instead, he leaves the ambivalence of the situation open: on the verge of exploitation, competition, gullibility, narcissism and the desire for self-assertion.