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Ljuma Penov: “Films that my parents watched would wake me up ever since I was a baby.”

Ljuma Margareta Penov, born in Belgrade, has graduated from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, module – Acting. She has been present in the film world for over a decade. Film aficionados know her for the main role in the film “Loveless Zoritsa” by Radoslav Pavković and Hristina Nadžiharalambus, as well as her roles in the so-called garage films “The Loop” by Milutin Petrović, “State” by Jelena Marković and “Family” by Saša Radojević.
You can see Ljuma Penov in films “Zucko – Story about Radivoj Korac” by Goran Matić, “Like Early Frost” by Đorđe Balašević, “Honeymoon” by Goran Paskaljević… She also plays one of the important roles in a melodrama “Aleksandra“, a recent film by Saša Radojević which was premiered at the 47th FEST, within the “Fest Presents” programme unit.
Interviewed by: Đorđe Bajić
Translated by: Ivana Tubić
Ljuma Penov

When did you develop a love for the seventh art? Which films did you love as a child?

The seventh art has always been in wrought in me, ever since I was little. Films have been a part of my life from the very beginning thanks to my family, especially dad who insisted that I read books and watch films. It wasn’t hard to talk me into doing those, I have enjoyed it and spent hours with a book, in front of the TV or at the cinema. I have watched classic movies from the early age, such as Felini, De Sica, Antonioni, Buñuel, Bergman, Menzel, Polanski, Forman, Spielberg, Godard, Lelouch, Woody Allen and others. It is hard to name them all. My favorite films at the time were “Miracle In Milan”, “Amarcord”, “8 1⁄2”, “The 400 Blows”, “Breathless”, “A Woman Is a Woman”, all the classics of European cinematography. I also loved “Wuthering Heights”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “Roman Holiday” and similar American films, like all girls. Among the films which marked my childhood, I would add French series “The Troops of St. Tropez” starring the legendary comedian Louis de Funès, as well as Hitchcock’s complete filmography.


Which actors and actresses would you draw attention to as you favorite ones?

I was a complicated child, but one thing about me has never changed – I have adored actors and idolized them. I loved Ingrid Bergman very much and she is amazing, Brigitte Bardot as well, Isabelle Huppert, Vivien Leigh, Jeanne Moreau, Isabelle Adjani, Nastassja Kinski… It is hard to name them all, since there are so many of them. When it comes to actors, my favorites are Marlon Brando, Woody Allen, Alain Delon, Louis de Funès, Buster Keaton, Gregory Peck, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino…There are many of them, too, I must have forgotten to mention somebody. Of course, I have adored Serbian actors and actresses, some of whom I was lucky to work with, which is a pure and a great pleasure.


Can we say these great figuresof the world of cinema are responsible for your film awakening?

They are certainly very responsible, but it is my family who developed a love for cinema in me. Films that my parents watched would wake me up ever since I was a baby, I grew up in a home where everything revolved around the seventh art and where people lived from one FEST to the next one. When your parents are such dedicated cinephiles, you too cannot be different. I loved my dad so much and I was listening to him and mom as well, who loved cinema so much, and they were among the first visitors of FEST, which was adorable to me and for which I was glad. Now, I am at FEST, too, for the 4th time, as an actress.  It is interesting how everything is connected.  Their love for cinema still lives through me.

Ljuma Penov

Which Serbian films have a special place in your private viewing pantheon?

This question is really hard to answer, too. There are some classics from the old Yugoslavia period, especially Black Wave. There are plenty of films in that collection which I love very much and often go back to, such as “I Even Met Happy Gypsies,” “It Rains in My Village,” “When I Am Dead and Gone,” and many others from that time, when many of our great actors Aleksandar Petrović, Dušan Makavejev, Đorđe Kadijević, Živojin Pavlović, Gordan Mihić started their careers and making films. Then, there are the films by my contemporaries Šijan, Kusturica, Goran Marković, Karanović, Dragojević, Paskaljević, Zečević… It is hard to highlight some specific titles, there are so many really, but I will try.  Those are the films “When Father Was Away on Business,” “Who’s Singin’ Over There?”, “The Elusive Summer of ’68,” “The Marathon Family,” “Do You Remember Dolly Bell?”, “Time of the Gypsies,” “Cabaret Balkan,” “Underground,” “Tito And Me,” “Special Education,” “The Meeting Point”… These movies, and I did not name them all for sure, made me cry or laugh, aroused great emotions I did not know I had.


What would you underscore out of Serbian movies from the 21st century?

I love the excellent “Clip” by Maja Miloš, “The Life and Death of a Porno Gang” by Mladen Đorđevic, “A Stinking Fairytale” by Miroslav Momčilovic and Oleg Novković, “Tomorrow Morning,” the films by Srđan Golubović “The Trap” and “Circles”, and Milutin Petrović’s “South-Southeast” and “Land of Truth, Love & Freedom”. Speaking of which, I need to separate myself from the fact that I would need a whole night to name all the titles I love and that left a huge mark on my understanding of the world. We have such, such a plentiful cinematography and we should be proud of it.


Tell me something about your first film steps…

Luckily, I was noticed by Zoran Andrić in my first year at university, I learned so much thanks to him, realized what it means to act on stage and be in front of the camera. In the third year of university, I got a call for the film “Solemn Promise,” but I was too young at the time for that role. I had wonderful collaborations with the professor Bora Drašković while we were working on his student’s graduate films. During that time, he was no longer directing, but he was teaching. I have learned so much from him, and he used to call me “my actress.” It meant so much to me, as well as his criticism and praises. I was acting more and more after university… I am the only actress from Serbia and the region who has received an accolade for acting, for the main role in the film “Loveless Zoritsa.” I was chosen by this festival, as one of few young and up-and-coming actors on the rise, to be their guest and to be present at the final gala ceremony at which “Loveless Zoritsa” was named the best film. So far I have acted in an array of films dear to me. When I choose roles I usually follow my instincts, intuition and artistic value, and I can say no to a lot of films which I am offered. I do not rush into new roles at all costs, I weigh up the pros and cons and decide carefully – as much as it is possible in such a small market.


There has been a so-called garage film in the past ten years or so which became stronger and more prevalent… You have acted in an array of films which can be classified into that category, some people even call you “the queen of garage film”…

Yes, I have often acted in those films. Those are, above all, artistic movies to me, created with much love and freedom, with not much money, but with a strong feeling for the artistic, which shines through every frame. The real, true and woke art illuminates these films. The film does not breathe without art, but it is tacky and average. These films are true treasures.  The direction is reduced to a nice minimum in the best tradition of European art film. In the acting sense, emotion and its detection through clear expression are most important for garage film. The acting play is minimalistic, natural and honest, and that is why it is reminiscent of French style. These films pose many questions and bring a different kind of aesthetics and the understanding of film and the world.


Let’s move on to the film “Aleksandra”… This is not your first collaboration with Saša Radojević, right?

I have taken a part in creating a few of the amazing films in which Saša was the director and/or the screenwriter. Every time we worked together is precious to me, as he is an excellent connoisseur of film and film language, with great intelligence. Saša Radojević lives for art, as well as each of his films, for the true, brash, soft and honest art. Melodrama as a genre is rarely filmed in our country, but “Aleksandra” brings a very nice melodrama into our cinematography. Everything is melodramatic, soft and spontaneous. That is a one true art film which is not expected in our country. It carries great sensitivity and real honesty.

Ljuma Penov and Jelena Susnjar, movie “Aleksandra”

Which tools did you use while working on this role?

I build every role of mine from the depths of myself. I consider working on a role a serious work, and not fun. I have to go deep into the very character I was given, I has to be inside me, we have to get to know each other, become friends, and that is not an easy process. I have to dig deep, into my emotions and singularities, until we become acquainted, become one, until it completely becomes a part of me and my personality, no matter how the role differs from me. That is how I was working on the role in the film “Aleksandra,” I have searched for her for so long and got to her.  The character I am playing is the complete opposite from me. That is why I had to consume her deep inside me, to become her, even though she is totally different from me. While simultaneously conveying emotion and essence to the audience, which is my duty as an actress.

Ljuma Penov, “Loveless Zoritsa”

Ljuma Margareta Penov is a Serbian film and stage actress.Since she was a child she studied classical ballet, later on besides classical she attended modern dance as well. She finished solo singing studio in Belgrade. She graduated from the secondary school of music in Novi Sad. She studied at the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of History (University of Novi Sad, Serbia). She studied at Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, studied and graduated from the Academy of Arts (University of Novi Sad, Serbia). She composes musical pieces for several projects, among them for film and theater plays in Serbia. She appears as a guest vocalist on an album Nautilus (album) by the band DreDDup. She first drew attention in 2009 as Josie Kilbride in the theater play U močvari (In the Swamp), directed by Egon Savin and based on Irish playwright Marina Carr’s play By the Bog of Cats. Dragana Bošković, theater critic of the Belgrade daily, Danas, called Ljuma Penov, “the discovery of this play, an actress about whom, no doubt, much more will be written about. Authentic, new, fresh in expression, convincing in tragic situations, energetic above her lifetime experience.” Her breakthrough film role was as Zorica in the Serbian dark comedy Crna Zorica. The role earned her and Branislav Trifunović a nomination for Her and Him award for the Best Acting Duo of the Year at the 2012 Film Meetings festival in Niš, Serbia, while the award was eventually won by Sloboda Mićalović and Ivan Bosiljčić. Penov was a special guest at the 2015 Hoboken International Film Festival, where she was selected as one of the aspiring talents and because of her outstanding performance in the film Crna Zorica (Loveless Zoritsa). At the Festival she was handed two awards for the film Loveless Zoritsa: Best Feature Film and Best of the Festival – Jury Award that was handed especially to her because of her contribution (as an actress) to the film Loveless Zoritsa. She played and plays in numerous theaters such as Yugoslav Drama Theatre Belgrade, National Theatre Belgrade, SKC Belgrade, National Theatre in Subotica, Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad, Istrian National Theatre (Pula, Croatia), Cankar Hall, (Slovenia, Ljubljana). Among other numerous film roles to wider audience she is known for her parts in “Honeymoons”, “Crna Zorica” – “Loveless Zoritsa”, Zlatna levica, priča o Radivoju Koraću” (“Zucko – the story of Radivoj Korac””), and others.

Interviewed by Đorđe Bajić (1975) is a Serbian film and literary critic and writer from Belgrade, and has a master’s degree in art and media theory. He is writing or wrote for: City Magazine, Popboks, Yellow Cab, Huper, Pressing, NIN, PolitikinZabavnik, Filaž… By the end of 2010, the Paladin publishing house published his first novel Isle of the Damned. He published his second novel, a thriller The Yellow Raincoat in 2013, and his third novel One Scum Fewer in 2015 (both published by the “Čarobnaknjiga”/”The Magic Book” publishing house). He wrote A Critical Guide to Serbian Filmography along with Zoran Janković and Ivan Velisavljević in 2000-2017 (FilmskicentarSrbije/Film Centre Serbia, 2018) and The Best Serbian Movies of the XXI century (FilmskicentarSrbije/Film Centre Serbia, 2019).

Translator, Ivana Tubić is 23 years old and was born in Belgrade. She is a English language graduate and she is currently studying for her master’s degree at the Faculty of Philology. In her spare time, she listens to pop music, works on drawings and engages in translation.  A huge fan of Rihanna, and her life is colored in glitter and shades of coffee.






This article was published in March of 2019, within the Awakening topic.

Read the other texts published in the Interview section.

This article was originally published in Serbian and you can read it here. Translated into English by Ivana Tubić.

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1 comment

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