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The actress who starred together with Italian cinema celebrities is cast as a First Lady in the strongest Bulgarian box-office performer for the last 20 years – “Mission London”

Every woman dreams of being a First Lady – if not of a whole state, then at least of the man she loves“. Actress Ernestina Shinova is familiar with both situations. Life made of her the sovereign of the heart of director Andrey Slabakov. In “Mission London”, the strongest Bulgarian box-office performer for the last 20 years, she’s the president’s wife, Devorina Selyanska. The movie is a feature-film début for director Dimitar Mitovski. It’s based upon Alec Popov’s novel of the same name.

Indisputably, Shinova is one of the best intellectual and visual assets of “Mission London”. She pulled together all her irony and produced through Devorina a brilliant parody of the provincial complexes and the hyperambitions of the made-in-BG political class. “I hyperbolized slightly the character to make it screen-worthy but the truth is that such types occur quite often. To me, the hardest was to make the ambition evident, as I am personally not ambitious at all”, comments the actress.

In Mitovski’s movie, her protagonist is obsessed with the idea of receiving the British Queen at her own reception. And, thus, to shine in her own country. It’s parvenuish, but what else might be expected from a First Lady with such a rustic surname, Selyanska [tr. n. – “Villager”]? It’s apparent that Ernestina is having fun with her Devorina. “I like sneering at others and, in this way, generalizing certain things. But people shouldn’t feel uneasy, because it’s in the same way that I deride myself, too. This is a way of life for me”, soothes us the actress serenely.

What’s setting her apart from Selyanska is at least a wagonload of books and a roomful of hats. Headgear is running the show of the film’s First Lady, while Shinova has a single ushanka. In contrast, she was raised in a house with 6,000 tomes – those are the bricks over which her life settled. Ernestina is the daughter of writer Chavdar Shinov who authored, too, the screenplays of some of the best Bulgarian films in the socialist epoch – “Loving Obstinately”, “Maneuvers on the Fifth Floor”, “Friday Evening”.

“No doubt, the environment is of great importance,” comments the actress on this branch of her genealogy. “It’s true that people are not born with equal chances but whatever luck you’re born to, you’re master of your destiny and if you genuinely want dearly something, it will happen. However, only if you’re ready to put some work into that,” says categorically the star.

Shinova is familiar with glory far before her role in Mitovski’s film. She’s not only her husband’s beloved wife but also his beloved actress. Andrey Slabakov sealed in her talent and her beauty in his feature films “Wagner” and “Hindemidth”. The second one brought her the title of Best Actress for 2008 at the annual National Film Awards.

Today Erna – as those close to her are calling her – and Andrey are among the most stable couples within the artistic guild, having behind them a marriage of more than 20 years. Their lives intertwined since school times. Both graduated from Sofia’s 118th High School. Andrey is three years her elder and Ernestina used to complain to him when other boys were harassing her. Later, their paths crossed at the Higher Institute of Theatrical Art. “We met and we split several times until in the end it became obvious that, since we couldn’t get out of this trap, we have at least to surrender graciously,” tells the actress through laughter. Their wedding was at the littoral village of Velika. At the time, Ernestina was performing for the Bourgas theatre, while Andrey was acting in the “Under the Yoke” series. September 9th [tr.n. – the Communist-era National Holiday] was the only day off and its then that they exchanged a “yes” in the Civic Status Office. According to eyewitnesses, Slabakov was wearing black pants and a shirt that the lady-sponsor sewed for him out of a sheet. On her side, Ernestina’s veil was the only mandatory accessory to her beach dress. Rather than a limo, they moved around in an open wagon packed with gerberas. Art rumors have them accompanied by a Gypsy crowd running around the newlyweds’ wooden cart with shrieks “Hey, fellow, what a nice bride you have!”

A few years later, the couple is in Italy – Shinova had earned a bursary and she went there for an internship. Slabakov followed her on the Apennines, too. Yet in Rome, it became clear that the bursary isn’t sufficient. Therefore, young hope of Bulgarian theatre and cinema Ernestina became a model. She had luck, and her accomplishments were by far not restricted to the fashion catwalk. More importantly, during her five-year stay in Italy, Shinova was cast in five movies. In Marco Bellocchio’s “L’uomo dal fiore in bocca”, she was cast with Michele Placido.

In “The Enchanted Soup”, she was with Ciccio Ingrassia, one of Fellini’s actors in “Amarcord”. With Beppe Cino, she shoot “In viaggio verso est”. She also worked with Gianmarco, Ugo Tognazzi’s son. They came back to Bulgaria at the end of the 1990s. Andrey earned a subsidy for shooting “Wagner”, while Ernestina is expecting soon.

Today, both of them acknowledge that their daughter Ioanna, not a baby anymore but a charming teenager, is their greatest masterpiece. “With the birth of a little child, it’s as if she sits Indian style inside your brain and from then on, a career and lots of other stuff start looking as great futility, with this living being as a background. Whatever I do, my first thought is always about her”, says Ernestina. In contrast with many among her colleagues, Shinova does not insist her daughter to take over her parents’ vocation. “Currently, Ioanna is into biology. She’s interested in some cellular secrets. This is again concerning humans – not at a spiritual level but at the physical one. I have no idea whether this curiosity towards biology will go on or the genes would prevail. Yet whatever she decides, I have no right to stop her,” is saying the actress categorically.

Business Card:
Born on July 2, 1963 in Sofia
Graduated from the “Krastyu Sarafov” Higher Institute of Theatrical Art (VITIZ)
Performed long time on the Bourgas Theatre’s stage
Starring in her husband Andrey Slabakov’s feature films “Wagner” and “Hindemidth”
Daughter of writer Chavdar Shinov
Elena Krasteva

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