Martina Apostolova

Martina Apostolova studied acting at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia. She has performed onstage throughout Bulgaria, acting in more than twenty contemporary plays. She made her big screen debut as the lead in Nadejda Koseva’s “Irina” in 2018, for which she was awarded Best Actress at eight international film festivals. In addition to her work on several TV productions, Martina has also acted in the short film “Whole” directed by Slava Doytcheva and most recently in Dimitar Kutmanov’s feature, “Lament for the Silent Fool.”

Tara Karajica talks to Martina Apostolova about being an actress, a European Shooting Star, women in film and her next projects.




What made you want to become an actress?

Martina Apostolova: The eternal feeling of being in the right place at the right time whenever I was onstage. The strong love that fulfills my soul when I am working. The more I was onstage or in front of the camera, the more I wanted this to continue. The other thing is that ever since I was a kid, I wanted to become so many things – policewoman, athlete, musician, superhero, dentist, surgeon – so when I grew up, I realized that the only way to be all this was to become an actress.

You made your film debut in Irina by Nadejda Koseva, a film about surrogate motherhood, survival, love and hope and a strong yet vulnerable woman. Can you elaborate on that?

M.A.: I am glad you noticed the hope and the love. Being vulnerable and a survivor is very hard. I like that first we recognize the everyday things, which are on the top of it all, and then we slowly dive into a very difficult and suffered soul. We see how one tough woman can be tender and loving, despite her difficult personality. We see how people from different social classes can have so much in common; can share the same values. We see how every human being must have the chance to be a parent.

Portraying the character of Irina earned you Best Actress Awards at eight film festivals. Can you talk about that character? How do you see Irina? Are you anything like her?

M.A.: Irina is a very strong and self-denying woman. Also, she represents a lot of women from the Balkans. There are a lot of Irinas in our countries. I saw her a bit differently than my director and the scriptwriters did, but in the end, she became more a fruit of my imagination. I like that she has forgotten the feelings – the strong human feelings. But she recognizes the path to reach them again. She is emotionally intelligent in spite of the life she lives and the place where she was born. But she is also a big hammer – we say that in Bulgaria about people who look like they wear a poker face and seem totally empty. I am not like that. I gave her tenderness and she gave me courage. We are both very truthful and principled.

How have you prepared for this role? What drew you to it?

M.A.: It was a long period of research and physical trainings. It is the unknown that always attracts me. It is interesting for me to try and breathe life into a character I would never be and have never been. For example, the thing with pregnancy – it was so strange to me. Now, it may sound funny, but I feel like a woman who has already given birth. I love the theoretical work. It was interesting for me to dive into the life of a pregnant woman, to research what happens to the women’s bodies when they are pregnant. It was like a game, an escape room, and I had to solve some enigmas to reach the end.

You have acted on the stage and in film. Which one do you prefer? Why?

M.A.: I cannot even compare the two things. They are so different one from the other – starting from the preparation, the rehearsing period and the final product. It is two different worlds for me and that is why I love them both – the experience is similar, but the result is quite different. You need a different focus and different techniques. Both film and the stage are very interesting and exciting fields. The energy and the experience of the audience are something else too.

How do you pick a role? Which one is your favorite, if any?

M.A.: I mostly pick the script. I look at the whole idea, at the cause, at how deep it is. And, of course, I look at the differences between the character and myself. The more different we are, the more challenging it is for me. The other thing is that for the past four years – especially onstage –, I have been into documentary theater. So there, I am strictly looking at the social effect that the play would have on the audience. Every single part is my favorite because every role has given me something. But, probably, onstage, Pinocchio has touched me deeply and, of course, in film, it was the role of Irina.

What does being a European Shooting Star mean for your career and how do you think it will impact it?

M.A.: I feel that it means everything. It is the biggest chance for an international career that I have been given so far. It is a great honor that comes with big responsibilities, of course, but it is such a rare thing, such an opportunity for a young actor who still has big dreams and is trying to believe that it is all worth it. I hope that it will give me wings. I hope that I will meet many talented colleagues, and I am sure it will impact me and my professional life deeply.

What does it take to be a star, according to you?

M.A.: It takes a lot of fun, a lot of love, a lot of dedication. And, of course, compromises and challenges, but isn’t it like this for every dream that has come true? It takes a lot of time – all of your time. It takes a lot of patience and doubts. It is so interesting. Every single day is different from the previous. I think it is the greatest luck. Oh, and of course, it takes good and faithful friends and family members.

There has been a lot of talk about women in film these past two years. What do you make of the situation of women in film? How is the situation in Bulgaria?

M.A.: Thankfully, we still do not have this problem in Bulgaria. I can say that, from my point of view, we are equal. Nevertheless, we, Balkan women, are strong and we stand up for ourselves so men are not so sure and brave to do whatever they want with us. Over the last few years, the best Bulgarian films have been made by female directors, although the themes and topics do vary. Living in a post-communist country takes its “victims.” It is tricky with the subjects you are interested in. For example, it is almost impossible for films about the Communist times, or even with LGBTQ topics to get an audience because we are still conservative and the patriarchy is still strong.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?

M.A.: I would love to work with Greta Gerwig and Claire Denis. I don’t have a favorite one, but to work with them would be a dream come true. Also, I kind of like Kristen Stewart’s attempts at directing.

What are your next projects?

M.A.: In films, I am preparing for the role of a girl boxer, experiencing tough times on neglecting and being the outsider. Two stage premieres are waiting for me in March and April. One is about a very famous Bulgarian singer, Emil Dimitrov, and it’s more of a musical, while the other one is a dance performance dealing with the pleasure of movement and the androgyny of sex and gender.




Photo credit: Konstantsa Getzova Just.

This interview was conducted in partnership with: 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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