IN Darya Zhuk’s debut feature Crystal Swan, Alina Nasibullina gives one of the most eye-catching breakout performances of 2018. She brings effortless charisma and vibrant style to her role as Velya, a young Belarusian woman who has big dreams of leaving to the US.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Alina about her connection with director Darya Zhuk, colourful fashion choices and Madonna comparisons ahead of the Crystal Swan’s screenings at the BFI London Film Festival (14 & 16 October).
Q: You were uncovered for the role of Velya at the last minute by casting director Darya Korobova. Can you tell us about being cast for the role and what you first thought when you heard about the character and story?
A: It all happened very suddenly and unexpectedly. I came to Minsk for the audition and we started filming a week later. I fell in love with Darya immediately and I realised this was where I was supposed to be.
As for Velya, I believe she is remarkable in every respect.
Q: ‘Crystal Swan’ is very much based on Darya Zhuk’s own experiences in Belarus in the 1990s. In what ways did you relate to Velya?
A: She is a rebel and people can always relate to that.
Q: There are a lot of bright colours and outfits in the film. Did you enjoy the fashion and style of Velya?
A: Absolutely. It helped me get into character better. Sometimes I also use fashion as a means of self-expression in real life, but usually I prefer to be more down to earth.
Q: Darya Zhuk shared a story about you two trying on costumes and dancing together. What was your creative collaboration like?
A: We understand each other perfectly. I’m grateful to Darya for giving me the freedom to work on my character and for helping me take it in the right direction.
Q: Darya also compared you to a young Madonna in our interview with her. Is that a comparison you can see or that you enjoy hearing?
A: To be honest, she is not the first person to do this and I’ve become quite used to hearing it. Sometimes I take advantage of it in my work, but in the case of Crystal Swan the comparison is especially accurate – and I love it.
Q: Velya longs to make it in America and experience Chicagoan music. Did you share any of her American dreams?
A: When we were filming, I was also at a stage in my life when I considering moving abroad to study performance art. But I wanted to move to Europe (London or Vienna) not America. Right now, however, I’m happy where I am.
Q: From what I can gather, you are a very creatively expressive person. Can you tell us about your background and what you love about art and performing?
A: Thank you for the compliment. I did performance art and I even studied it. Now I’m more interested in video art. I realise that I love cinematography and everything that goes on behind the camera.
I love experimenting, but I also love touching upon simple things and unusual shape of them. I have a website, although you can only find my projects from a few years ago there. I promise to update it soon.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future?
A: I want to reach a stage where other artists are compared to me, rather than me being compared to other people.
Q: We are looking forward to finally seeing ‘Crystal Swan’ at the BFI London Film Festival. What should UK audiences be ready for?
A: Prepared to enjoy it a lot (smiles).