Bulgaria has a fragrant treasure: the Damask rose, which provides costly oils for luxury perfumes. Roses in the EU's poorest country thrive like nowhere else. A film about rose pickers and farmers and their struggle for a bigger share of the profits.
It’s 05:30 in the morning and Liljana Pumpalowa is already in her rose field. When the sun rises over the mountains and the leaves are still covered with dew, the oil content of the Damask rose flowers is at its highest. This year she will harvest her own treasured roses for the first time with her mother and daughter. The three women live in the small village of Turia in the so-called Valley of Roses. The fertile plain lies between the Balkan Mountains, which run across Bulgaria, and the Sredna Gora mountain range in the south, which protects it from cold winds. The mild, sunny climate with abundant rainfall and fertile soil provide ideal conditions for the Damask rose. In spring the valley turns into a fragrant sea of pink. Ottoman rulers once brought the Rosa damascena variety from Syria to the Balkan Peninsula. Today it is the symbol of Bulgaria. The Damask rose is not a long-stemmed cut flower, but an oil rose. Its flowers contain more scent molecules than all other rose species. The famous rose oil has been distilled in Bulgaria for over 300 years and serves as the raw material for the world's finest perfumes. But what about the distribution of profits? On the one hand, branded perfumes are sold for large sums on world markets, on the other hand rose-pickers have to struggle with bitter poverty. Now the people want to profit from the fragrant treasure in their valleys themselves. Rose pickers, rose growers, distillers and perfumers are breaking new ground. The documentary shows them at the rose harvest and at the traditional rose festival dedicated to the unique scent of Bulgaria's Damask rose.