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Saltanat Nauruz: Welcome to the USA

Saltanat Nauruz, star of Welcome to the USA, is yet another successful graduate of the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. She attended the 2-Year Conservatory program, completing her studies in 2012. After she finished her training at LSTFI, Saltanat flew back to her hometown of Almaty, Kazakhstan. There, she began working in both theatre and film, until she got her big break in Welcome to the USA. The film premiered in November 2019 at the AFI Film Festival at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The film also won the Grand Jury Prize for the International Feature at the 32nd annual NewFest LGBTQ Film Festival!

Welcome to the USA

Welcome to the USA is an authentic and powerful film that explores concepts of family, immigration, sexual identity, and gender inequity. It features LSTFI alumnus Saltanat Nauruz as 36-year-old Aliya, who wins the green card lottery and has a chance to immigrate to the United States from Soviet-era Kazakhstan.

The film’s plot focuses on the dilemma that this opportunity presents to Aliya. Conflicted, she is unsure whether she should leave her oppressive life in Kazakhstan or stay with her family and friends. Her choice at first seems clear, as Aliya is a queer woman in a country where homosexuality is illegal and that is rife with anti-homosexual propaganda. As the story unfolds, however, we learn about the intangible bonds between the characters and their sacrifices for love. This is poignantly illustrated in touching scenes when Aliya feeds her elderly mother a meal, and when Aliya reunites with her former girlfriend. Aliya’s struggle to make a choice becomes effortlessly relatable as these scenes with family and friends are so gripping.

Saltanat and The Method 

Saltanat employed Method Acting techniques, as taught at LSTFI, throughout the film. She attributes her highly successful performance to this training:

I was referring to The Method all the time. Starting with my preparation for the character, I was looking for her perfume, her physical appearance. I did my preparations on the set, doing relaxation exercises. It helped me a lot with my focus.

Saltanat Nauruz

As Saltanat describes, The Method is a great technique to be used not only during a scene, but in preparation for one. She also mentioned how her training made her stand out from other actors. “I was talking to Assel (director) and we together built my character. She was happy with my approach as it’s something very different from local actors’ preparation. Honestly, I think my LSTFI background made her choose me over other actors.” 

Her foundation in The Method from LSTFI gave Saltanat the tools to make her version of the character stand out from those of other actors. Even a practice as simple as Lee Strasberg’s relaxation technique can help an actor be more grounded – and allow them to emote more than someone without proper training.

Continued Success

While Saltanat graduated years ago, she still carries the lessons she learned at LSTFI with her today. She learned a great deal from the teachers she studied with, including Robert Ellerman, Lorca Peress, Irma Sandrey, Paul Calderon, and Lola Cohen.

Now in 2020, Welcome to the USA continues its festival run. Later this year, it will appear in Denmark at MIX Copenhagen and in Spain at the Madrid International LGBTQ Film Festival. We applaud Saltanat for her impressive performance in Welcome to the USA and hope that both the film and she continue to garner recognition. Clearly, both are winners!

LSTFI Alumni News written by Nicholas Tesoriero. Are you an alum with a story to share? Let us know by submitting to our online Alumni News form!