OLGA star Anastasia Budiashkina: ‘I told myself everything would be real and alive’

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Photo courtesy of Anastasia Budiashkina

Ukrainian gymnast Anastasia Budiashkina has earned praise as the star of the award-winning film Olga that enjoyed its worldwide theatrical release earlier this year.

Since fleeing her native Ukraine, alone at the start of the war, Budiashkina is now appraising her new life in Switzerland and her future acting endeavors.

Budiashkina’s debut film performance in Olga earned her the AISGE (Performing Artists, Intellectual Property Rights Management Entity) Best Actress Award at the 2021 Gijón International Film Festival in Spain, and the film itself has collected numerous prizes at major festivals around the world.

Among other top 2021 honors, Olga won the Critics’ Week SACD (Authors Society) Award at the Cannes Film Festival; the International Competitions Audience Award and the BeTV Best International Feature Film Award at the Brussels International Film Festival; the Sichtwechsel Best Feature Film Award at the Hamburg Film Festival; the International Jury Distinction Award at the War on Screen International Film Festival in France; and the Clion Best Film Award and Critics’ Jury Special Mention Best Film Award at the Waterloo Historical Film Festival in Belgium.

The New York Times’ review of the film which Elie Grappe directed included acclaim for Budiashkina, who “plays Olga beautifully as a guarded, stubborn teenager with the weight of exile on her shoulders, who refuses to quit but still needs her mother, who is stone-faced on the mat but still cries into a stuffed animal.” Great Britain’s The Guardian noted that Budiashkina “excellently played” her role.

In the film, gymnast Olga, whose late father was Swiss, leaves Ukraine during the 2014 Maidan revolution with the aim of competing for Switzerland. She struggles to integrate with her new Swiss teammates, and moreover to cope with the guilt and fear she feels as her mother, an investigative journalist still in Ukraine who reports on corruption, faces constant danger.

Budiashkina’s costars include her former Ukrainian teammate Sabrina Rubtsova, and former Swiss national team members Caterina Barloggio and Thea Brogli. Current French team standout Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos appears in an uncredited role as a French gymnast.

In this International Gymnast Online interview, Budiashkina shares her views on her performance in Olga, how she relates to her character and her next acting ambitions.

Photo courtesy of Anastasia Budiashkina

IGO: What was the Olga audition process like you for?

AB: I can’t remember exactly now as it was in 2016, but it was interesting. Everything was so new. We were called one by one into the office, and we had to play a scene. The director described the theme of the scene, and then there was a flight of fantasy. There was also one woman who gave a little rhythm, since you could get a little confused on your own.

IGO: What did you do to get into the character of Olga, to make her believable and authentic?

AB: At first it was difficult. I did not understand many things, but over time, my team that worked together with me on this film helped and explained some things. Together with the team, we worked a lot on what would be good, beautiful and so on. I immediately told myself that in this film there would be nothing fake, and that everything would be real and alive. To be honest, I didn’t even notice when it got easier and better, but it happened in the middle of filming.

IGO: What did you think of your character and the way you would relate to her?

AB: I would probably treat Olga well. I would help her and become her best friend, although for me, Olga does a lot of strange things. But I would help her, support her and take care of her.

IGO: How is Olga different from you?

AB: She is very monotonous – only one thing – but I like different things, being spontaneous. It’s hard to answer. I never compared us, since this is a fictitious character.

IGO: How strenuous were the scenes that involved your performing gymnastics?

AB: In some moments it was strained. In the gymnastics there was 10% tension. It was not in the gymnastics that there was a snag.

IGO: At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, you left for Poland. What is your living situation now?

AB: I left on my own at the beginning of March. I was in Poland for three weeks. At the end of March, after talking with the director and explaining the whole situation, I went to Switzerland. I have been living in Switzerland for four months, which makes me extremely happy. It’s difficult, of course, but who has it easy now?

IGO: What are your hopes for future film projects?

AB: At the moment I don’t have any projects. I didn’t even think about what kind of films I would like to star in, but of course I would like to star in some very interesting ones.

IGO: What have you learned about life based on portraying a character as complex as Olga?

AB: Nothing. I have that adventure every day.

International Gymnast Online’s other recent coverage of Ukrainian gymnasts includes:

Germany’s Kevric and Ukraine’s Stelmakh win all-around, Romania and Italy teams triumph at EYOF

Ukrainian gymnastics legends abroad rally for aid to war victims

Ukraine’s Daniela Batrona: ‘My parents and coaches inspired me, and God gave me strength’

Ukraine’s Kovtun completes series sweep at World Cup of Baku

Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun: ‘God is with us and the truth is on our side’

Anastasia Motak: ‘I Saw the Goal and Went to It’

Legendary Ukrainian Coach Oleg Ostapenko Passes Away At 76

Varinska on COVID-19: ‘A Reboot is Taking Place’

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