Lydia Indjova: Cinema's doors are open for everyone

The red carpet is not a goal but the result of a job well done

When I came to Belgium five years ago, not speaking a word of French and having no contacts in the film industry, I did not see how I could possibly continue to work as an actress. I thought my career was over, but I kept pushing. I appeared in student projects for free, went to workshops and volunteered in various film festivals. And slowly but surely, opportunities started to come my way, says actress Lydia Indjova in an interview to Europost.

Ms Indjova, how did you get on board with May Day?

It is an ordinary story - I was recommended and then, of course, went through the casting process. Originally, the character was supposed to be of Czech or Polish descent. They had done screen tests with several actresses before I showed up, but after my audition the directors Olivier Magis and Fedrik Beul opted to work with me and so the heroine became a Bulgarian.

What is the film about? Tell us more about yours and Viktor Biserov's characters.

May Day tells the story of a lonely middle-aged man who puts his established service as a newspaper delivery guy up for an auction, in which the bidder offering the lowest price wins. The opening scene shows him and the group of people who responded to the advertisement, including representative of the many ethnic communities in Belgium - a Fleming, a Moroccan, a French-speaking Belgian woman with three kids, a French student and an Albanian taxi driver. All of them need the job. I and my on-screen partner Viktor Biserov play a family from eastern Europe. Each of the candidates reacts differently - some see the job offer as unethical, others are prepared to do anything to secure the employment, even of it pays cents on the dollar. The “auction process” organised by the main character sets off a series of absurd situations and results in a true collision of values and personal fates.

Did you know the two of you would be working together?

When I got casted to play in the film, Olivier and Fedrik asked me to help them find a Bulgarian actor. I suggested that they invite an actor from Bulgaria, but the budget did not allow it. So, through some mutual acquaintances, I was introduced to actor Viktor Biserov, who lives in Antwerp. Working with him was a pleasure.

Where and when did you shoot the film? Were there any interesting events during the filming process?

We shot in the summer of 2016 in a small Brussels apartment. The claustrophobic feel and the air of a stalemate were crucial to the idea of the film. Some 30 people in total, including cast and crew, operated in that tiny space for five days. The entire production process was a huge challenge, not only because of the location but because the film was a “choir performance”, with 15 actors having to be attentive and in character every moment of every scene. Filming in an environment like that is a true teaching experience because the actors have to abandon their egos and work as a team. From a cinematographic standpoint, it was a documentary-style project shot with two cameras only. None of the actors had a moment to pause and wait for their line because no one knew at what point the camera's eye would turn to them. We had to be part of the action the whole time.

I assume you know that another Bulgarian actor, Dimiter Marinov, was featured in an entry for the Oscars - Green Book. Are the doors of big cinema starting to really open for talented people from Bulgaria?

Yes, I was very glad to hear that Dimiter Marinov was part of Green Book. The doors of cinema are open for everyone willing to work hard, constantly evolve and stay determined even when things seem hopeless. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that when I came to Belgium five years ago, not speaking a word of French and having no contacts in the film industry, I did not see how I could possibly continue to work as an actress. I thought my career was over, but I kept pushing. I appeared in student projects for free, went to workshops and volunteered in various film festivals. And slowly but surely, opportunities started to come my way.

Does a Bulgarian actor have to emigrate to get the chance to walk the red carpet, as part of a foreign project's cast?

I do not think that one necessarily has to go to another country to be in a good film. Over the past few years, several Bulgarian films have afforded actors the opportunity to walk the red carpet - Lesson, Glory, and Directions, for example, received awards from international festivals. Let us not forget that some years ago The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner was short-listed for the Oscars in the foreign language film category. In any case, the red carpet is usually not a goal but the result of a job well done.

How did you wind up in Belgium, why did you decide to try your luck abroad?

I never thought I would leave Bulgaria, let alone end up in Belgium. I left for the only possible and truly important reason - love. My boyfriend is from Luxembourg and had to finish his master's degree education in Brussels. I went with him and then we liked living in Brussels and decided to settle there.

Do you miss theatre?

Right now, I am devoted to cinema, but I know I will perform on the theatre stage again one day. The right time has just not come yet. I have made a promise to myself that I will only be in theatre productions whose message I find important. I and my friend and colleague Tara Beckers are working on a play and expect to perform it on stage in the 2019-2020 season. The play deals with the long-lasting effects on children's lives of conflict-filled relationships between their parents.

How do you stay in shape, do you have a hobby?

I work out in a gym, ride my bicycle when it is not raining and try to walk as much as possible. I love going to a spa in Spa, the water there is wonderful. Yes, the word itself comes from the Belgian town of Spa. I have no time for hobbies because two years ago, together with my colleagues from Institut des Arts de la diffusion, Louvain-la-Neuve, I started a production company in Brussels and our plate is getting fuller and fuller. Of course, I never miss a film premiere, a theatre production, or any of the myriad festivals, conferences and exhibitions. It is this cultural variety that makes me love living in Brussels. In May Day, its Belgian directors really managed to capture this diversity in all its human manifestations.

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Lydia Indjova was born on 4 August 1986 in Novorossiysk, Russia. When she was two, her family moved to Bulgaria. She started dabbling in acting as early as fifth grade, attending a theatre class. After enrolling in the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, she appeared in plays at the National Theatre while being a student. Indjova graduated with the class of 2008 and joined the company of the Bulgarian Army Theatre. She has also had experience in cinema and television productions. For the past five years, she has been living in Brussels. Together with another Bulgarian actor, Viktor Biserov, she is in the Belgian production May Day, which was short-listed for the Academy Awards in the short film category.

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