At the 2005 Moscow Film Festival, Vesela Kazakova took a “Silver George” as prize for best actress. The American actress Daryl Hannah said in her praise “This girl moved me to tears. She is so stunning and sensational.”
That is reason enough to get excited about a meeting with the Bulgarian actress. The Berlinale, the Berlin film festival, is still in full swing, but Vesela nonetheless arrives right on time. She is close to six feet tall, and waif-thin, wearing a bright, close-fitting t-shirt and jeans. My gaze is arrested by her dark, twinkling eyes. They beam at you when she laughs. Vesela is warm and unpretentious, speaking openly and enthusiastically. Her name is hardly an accident; Vesela is Bulgarian for “funny” or “charming.”
Her mother’s daughter
Yesterday, Vesela had to get a last minute outfit for her appearance in Berlin, and the evening before she did a performance in the Hambara Theater in Sofia. “I don’t know when the last time I really slept was,” says the 28 year old. In Bulgaria she is very active in the alternative theater scene, writing screen-plays and composing music. She has been on stage since she was four years old, when she was performing in the children’s theater group “Little Bells” with her twin sister Bilyana. She inherited this love of acting from her mother. Vesela studied at the Acting Academy in Sofia in a class with Stefan Danailov, the current Bulgarian Minister of Culture.
She drinks tea, adores coffee, and gave up cigarettes a few months ago when she devoted herself to a special nutritional programme. For the role of a Hungarian high-class call-girl in the film “Prima Primavera” she has to put on 10 kilos. So far she has managed to put on 2 kilos. “For every role I put in 100%. Now I just have to get heftier” she says.
A career by post-its
After this Berlinale, Vesela will start learning her role for the film – in Hungarian. This will be quite a challenge, given that she has not yet mastered Hungarian, a lovely but highly complicated language. The work on the script begins this summer and Vesela is looking forward to the sojourn in Budapest. She loves all the European countries, but she finds Italy “especially cool” on account of the extraordinary beauty of the countryside and the “dolce vita.” “I think it’s great that Bulgaria is joining the EU,” she says.
Vesela came to Berlin without an entourage. Like most Bulgarian actors, she does not have an agent when in Bulgaria. This is for financial reasons. The result of this is that Bulgarian actors come across casting calls by accident, often right before they are about to happen. Usually this is done through a notice board at the entrance of the Acting Academy, where advertisements are posted, she explains. This limits the amount of competition for acting parts. The inadequate framework for information exchange in the industry has the effect of increasing the chances of candidates who are well-connected and can find out about castings in time. This angers Vesela. After one of these castings in Sofia, she got her role in the film “Otkradnati Otschi,” or “Stolen Eyes,” for which she was awarded the Silver George. She was in competition with more than 300 other candidates.
The film, “Stolen Eyes” deals with a dark period in Bulgaria’s history. In 1986, the Turkish minority in Bulgaria was forced to have their names changed into Bulgarian. Ayten, played by Vasela, loses her son – and falls in love with the soldier who is responsible for her son’s death. The Turkish-Bulgarian co-production is an unusual, melancholy love story, attempting to heal the wounds of history with a happy ending. Whoever sees it will know what Daryl Hannah was taking about.