This historical epic drama from director Ludmil Staikov recalls the violence of 17th-century Bulgaria when the invading Turks forced Islam on the country's Christian population. Ten-year-old Christian boys were rounded up to become part of the sultan's personal army, a practice reviled by the Bulgarians. The Bulgarians have two choices; renounce their Christian beliefs or die. Monal (Ivan Krustev) is a shepherd who leads a heroic but ill-fated resistance movement against the Ottoman oppressors. At Monal's wedding, the guests are threatened with torture and rape by the Turks. Those refusing to embrace Islam are impaled, beheaded, drawn and quartered in a graphically violent scene. The women's fate is implied and not shown on screen. Shown at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, many Turks protested the graphic portrayal of their ancestors being sadistic torturers and murderers. Despite their objections, history has proven the Turks to be among the most fearsome fighters of all time.
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