Žygimantė Elena Jakštaitė

Žygimantė Elena Jakstaitė has captured the attention of the Lithuanian film industry and public as an exciting emerging acting talent on the stage and screen. She studied Acting at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater and is a skilled violinist as well as a trained mezzo-soprano. On stage, she has more than twenty roles among her credits, including “Durys” (Jo Strogmen, Norway) at the National Theatre of Lithuania and “Vestuvės” (Oskaras Korsunovas, Lithuania) at the Vilnius City Theatre. After firmly establishing her credentials in the theater world, she leapt enthusiastically into a parallel career in film in 2017, which was launched with supporting roles in both short and feature films. Her first leading role is in the upcoming Lithuanian-Czech feature co-production, “Runner” by Andrius Blazevičius.

Ahead of the 2021 European Shooting Stars Awards Ceremony on Monday 14 June during the Berlinale Summer Special, Tara Karajica talks to Žygimantė Elena Jakštaitė about being an actress, a European Shooting Star, women in film and her next projects.





What made you want to become an actress?

Žygimantė Elena Jakštaitė: My father is an actor and director, so I have been surrounded by theater since I was a child. Since I can remember I have always known I would be an actress.

You have recently starred in Runner by Andrius Blaževičius, a film about love and freedom stemming from responsibility and self-sacrifice. Can you elaborate on that?

Ž.-J.: When one is in trouble like in this case, a disease, there is a thin line between helping your loved one and losing yourself. So, you sacrifice, but the question is: How much is enough? Is it really that kind to become the one who also needs help from others? So, the film is about running for the one you love and losing the ability to stop for the sake of yours.

Can you talk about the character of Marija? How do you see Marija? Are you anything like her?

Ž.-J.: When I read the script, I was so impressed by Marija and how strong and dedicated she is. Every decision she makes seems very natural to me. She has all the colors in this film, from sensitivity to aggression. As an actress, I was so happy to have had this opportunity to express it all. From today’s perspective, I wonder whether she has another way of dealing with issues.

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

Ž.-J.: I would say that my previous works in the theater have led me to this role. I’ve been acting a lot these past four years. Different kind of experiences come and have the ability to control and shape my acting. Also, I’ve been running a couple months to adapt physically. It was the right time and the right role for me at that time.

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

Ž.-J.: I just love acting. I genuinely love to act so much that it’s really hard for me when I can’t. I just suffer. At the moment, acting is my passion. And, of course, there are differences, but there isn’t much difference to me in general.

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

Ž.-J.: It would be so nice to be the one picking! Currently, I am the one going to auditions. But, after some time, I can see that the roles I get are really made for me, one way or another. Maybe, somehow, on some energy or metaphysical level. And, they all are my favorites because you put so much into them.

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

Ž.-J.: It’s hard to say yet. Maybe, after some time, we will see whether I make great works or not. Naturally, I really want to create deep, interesting and impactful roles. I hope this award will help me be recognized as a good actress.

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

Ž.-J.: Maybe it is a sign of quality. Somebody who’s known for making brilliant work, who puts their all into what they do.

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

Ž.-J.: From my perspective in Lithuania, I am more often facing struggles for just being a young actress. It’s hard for example to even get into auditions in the theater when a famous director comes because the intention is to give the role to somebody who works in the theater or somebody who is known. Being a freelancer is a struggle. And, I guess it’s the same for young actors too – the lack of opportunities.

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

Ž.-J.: We have the super talented female filmmaker, Marija Kavtaradze, who is also the co-writer of Runner. She recently made her first feature film, Summer Survivors. It’s an amazing film! It would be a pleasure to work with her because she is also a very nice person.

What are your next projects?

Ž.-J.: I look forward to theaters opening and to going back to my usual routine. There are also new projects waiting, but we first have to come out of this difficult world pandemic and move on.



Photo credit: Dainus Ščiuka.

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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