If you’re searching for a breakout on this year’s fall festival circuit, look no further than “Nina” star Bibiana Nováková. The eponymous star of Juraj Lehotský’s latest feature anchors the tough divorce drama and comes out the other side as a bonafide star in the making. The film, which recently bowed at Karlovy Vary, is now bound for the Toronto International Film Festival as part of its recently announced World Cinema section.
The film follows tween Nina (Nováková), whose entire world is upended when her parents announce their divorce. For the sensitive 12-year-old, the discovery that her parents are “doing what’s best for her” rocks her to her very core — what about what she wants? what about their lives together? and who are these seeming strangers who have replaced her loving parents? — and she seeks out refuge in the only thing that hasn’t changed overnight: competitive swimming. But as her parents’ woes and her swimming come into ever-closer contact with each other, both are threatened, and Nina must make a huge choice.
The film is only Slovakian director Lehotský’s second feature, and he’s still best known for his short films and documentaries like “Blind Loves.” “Nina,” however, might just change that, especially thanks to the stirring and mature performance that Nováková turns in.
As the director explains it, he discovered the young actress at auditions, “which was surprising. Usually at auditions you get children who really want to act and they act like it, or you get parents who want their children to act. Only seldom do you get children who are so mature. It’s very rare, finding a young talent like her…At the auditions we clicked really well. We immediately understood that she has a knack for strong, natural acting, that she can be authentic.”
He added, “I saw how gentle she could be, but I also saw that she could cope with difficult situations. It was amazing how well she understood my language. We worked really well together. Ultimately, I think that the whole film works mostly thanks to her.” Check out our exclusive clip from “Nina” below.
“Nina” will have its North American premiere at TIFF later this month.