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2000: Nevena Kokanova - the first lady of Bulgarian cinema

БНР Новини
Photo: BTA archive

Irina from Tobacco, Zhana from The Inspector and the Night, Lisa from The Peach Thief, Anna from Carambola, Tinka from The Boy Goes Away... Her film roles are over 50, but she always claimed that her real passion was theater. And in the world of cinema and theater there is a general rule - the truely great actors are the ones who are the most natural and earthly, who do not get giddy from the spotlight. Nevena Kokanova is one of them.

"I never responded precisely to one of the questions always posed to me in connection with my profession - which role I want to play. I have satisfied interviewers with definitions such as "a complex, contemporary role full of conflict." But, searching for an answer for myself, I am amazed at the wealth of notions that goes inside the concept of "woman". And going deeper, I touch the essence and the beginning. Combining the great beginning of the human race and the multitude of aspects of human existence,the woman who is exalted to the heights of God andis reflected in history, yet pacing the streets of our modern days, she lasts forever. It is her, the eternal woman whom I want to play. And if my creative palette has the necessary means of expression to convey the depths of this female world and its essence, I will be proud that I'm a woman."

СнимкаIt is difficult to point to another actress in Bulgarian cinema that embodies the notion of pure femininity to such an extent. Besides beauty and exceptional photogenic talent, Nevena Kokanova has the quality of an icon - with unique softness, dignity and inner shyness. Not surprisingly, after watching the movie Tobaccoat the film contest in Cannes, a Swedish journalist exclaimed: "Don't you agree that the main heroine is more beautiful than Sophia Loren!"

Nevena was born in the town of Dupnitsa on December 12, 1938. Her father was an officer of the royal army and served in the Bulgarian corps in Macedonia, and after September 9, 1944 when a pro-Soviet regime was established in Bulgaria, despite his acquittal, he was sent to a camp in Belene. Her mother Eleonoracame from the Austrian aristocratic family Von Heldenberg. The future star studied at the School of Commerce, when she first participated as an extra in movies. She also auditioned at the entry exam in the Film Academy, but the committee did not assess her highly. The shortsightedness of the academic jury, however, did not prove fatal because of the specialists in the Yambol-basedTheater. The director of Yambol theater Ianaki Stoyanov liked her so much that he invited her in his company which she joined at the age of only 17. And he immediately gave her the role of Juliet. She always claimed that three people served as a substitute for her studies at the Film and Acting Academy - her husband Ljubomir Sharlandjiev -film director as well as actors Grigor Vachkov and Apostle Karamitev. Regarding Apostol Karamitev Nevena used to say: "I learned from him more than what I would have learned at five theatrical academies." And what do film directors say about her? We hear a recording of film director Valo Radev stored in the Golden Sound Archives of the BNR:

"Vencheto was an actress who knew magnificently how to take the feeling you direct at her.You show her some sensation so she could sense in your voice how you feel at this moment and throw it back immediately at you in front of the camera. But to return it transformed through herpeace of mind via text that she has to utter."

СнимкаToday, information about the private life of the actress is scarce, since she did not agree to having a biography of her published. She met her husband Lyubomir Sharlandjiev on the set. From that moment on the director puts her at the centre of his work and his life. He was especially demanding for her and uncompromising - if the script did not fit, he did not take her for the role. Her memorable roles in Tobacco and The Peach Thiefwon her a number of awards. But the powerfulcharacters of Irina and Lisa seem to start to weigh on her. After them she played several roles of beautiful, even fatal women and felt she started to repeat herself. She was saved again by her husband who in the movie Taste of Almonds transformed her froma femme fatale into a devastated lover. With her "lover" Georgi Georgiev-Getz in 1967 of the Varna Film Festival they again received awards for best roles.

Nevena Kokanova was the first Bulgarian actress for whom special roles were written especially for her. It was precisely her that Blaga Dimitrova had in mind when she was planning her script of Detour (Otklonenie). Again for her Konstantin Pavlov wrote his scriptMemory of the Twin Sister. And he even called his heroine by her name - Nevena. Alas, he proved to be a bad prophet. The disease which killed the heroine in the film also struck the first lady of Bulgarian cinema. Kokanova died of cancer in 2000, aged only 61 years.

English Rossitsa Petcova

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