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Mаry Mamyan

Disrobing for the Sake of Art is Not Shameful, Says Belarusian Actor About Her Breakout Role

Though she initially objected, Yana Novikova (pictured) agreed to disrobe for her breakout role as Anya in Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe (Plemya). 

When she agreed to be in the film, Yana wasn't yet completely familiar with the script. When she discovered that she has some nude scenes, she argued with the director. Initially, Slaboshpytskiy said she either she follows the script as is or leaves the production; however, later, the director and actor reached a compromise. Now the actor believes that disrobing for the sake of art is not shameful. 

"When I saw the films that win in film festivals, I understood that I don't have to spare any effort for our film also to achieve success. I was surprised that we participated in the Cannes film festival," she says.

After The Tribe won first place in the 11th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival (GAIFF), Yana Novikova immediately called Slaboshpytskiy, who was in Kiev. Slaboshpytskiy was initially surprised but also very happy. This Ukrainian film received not only the first prize (the "Golden Apricot") in the International Feature competition, but also the FIPRESCI jury prize.

"When I saw the films that win in film festivals, I understood that I don't have to spare any effort for our film also to achieve success. I was surprised that we participated in Cannes," she said, referring to the film's success at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

This is Yana's first film role. Speaking to Hetq, she described the journey she went through before getting this role. She and her sister, both deaf, were born in a Belarusian family to hearing parents. When she was young, she often asked her parents if she could become an actor, but her parents were convinced that the acting profession was not for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. So, they taught Yana painting. Just as her character in The Tribe, she too went to boarding school, where, she confesses, she witnessed the cruelty depicted in the film. However, she was convinced that being deaf didn't mean being disabled — it simply means that they speak a language which hearing people can't. After graduating from school, Yana was accepted at an engineering college, but she quit in the third year. 

"My heart prompted me to go in a different direction, [told me] that another future awaits me," she says.

That's when she decided to leave Belarus for Kiev with the intention of becoming an actor, where she participates in a casting session. She grabbed the attention of Slaboshpytskiy, who offers her the main role. She kept all this from her parents, who find out about their daughter being in a film only after the role is confirmed. 

Filming the at-home abortion scene was quite a tense and difficult process for Yana. The cast and crew first had a few practice runs, showing the scenes to a doctor so that they could achieve a realistic picture. This entire process is depicted in detail in the film.

"During filming, I suffered and cried a lot. I wanted to be as natural as possible," recalls Yana. "We wanted to show that which happens in reality — to convey the anguish and emotions."

During the six months of filming, Yana didn't see her parents and didn't tell them what type of film was being made. Her parents found about the details of the film only through the news media after its success at Cannes. 

"I explained to my parents that it's not shameful to be filmed nude, and if we've won, then we did a good job," recalls Yana. "Then my mother became very happy that I was able to go forward."

Comments (1)

The article is not relevant to Armenians. The movie she plays a part in won an award at Golden Apricot festival. What does her decision on taking the part have to do with Armenians? I mean, who cares, really?

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