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Belgian Actress Barbara Sarafian Showcases a Wide Range of Emotions Throughout Her Remarkable Career

Barbara Sarafian, born in Ghent on April 16, 1968, is a much-beloved veteran actress from Belgium. As a young student, Sarafian took a deep dive into acting at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Antwerp and at Parallax in Brussels. Her first appearance on the big screen was in the short film Pasta! In the 1990s, her career started off as a popular radio personality and as a comedian on Flemish television series such as Alles kan beter, Blinde vinken, and De mannen van de macht. Since those early years, Sarafian has grown into one of Belgian’s finest actresses in film, television and theater.

In 2001, Sarafian’s acting career took an international turn when she secured a small part as a film critic in Roman Coppola’s debut feature CQ. She also appeared in the science-fiction sequel Fortress 2 – Re-Entry with director Geoff Murphy at the helm.

Her big breakthrough followed in 2008 when she shined in Christophe Van Rompaey’s critically acclaimed Moscow, Belgium. In this romantic drama, she took on the role of Matty, a 41-year-old depressed mother of three enduring her husband’s mid-life crisis and falling head over heels with Johnny, a much younger, questionable yet charming truck driver. The part won her many awards at numerous festivals, including two awards for Best Actress. Even the US newspapers raved and wrote about Sarafian turning in “an Oscar-caliber powerful performance.” Her nuanced execution was globally praised, and her considerable range and depth as an actress often got compared with the authentic rawness of Frances McDormand.

In 2011, she starred in the role of Eva Forrestier in Michael Roskam’s Oscar-nominated movie Rundskop (Bullhead), along with Matthias Schoenaerts. One year later, she won the Ensor Award (the Flemish equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the romantic movie Brasserie Romantiek. Besides her work on the big screen, Sarafian has built a comprehensive resume in television series and shows, as well as on stage, where she has showcased a variety of acclaimed theatre performance roles. 


Last year, Sarafian shined in Belgian’s biggest box office hit of 2022, Zillion, a Flemish disco movie and crime thriller which tells a true tale of the rise and fall of the country’s biggest disco. In it, Sarafian brilliantly portrays the role of Marleen, a single mother who takes care of her son (Jonas Vermeulen), a role close to Barbara’s own personal situation. Recently, the multi-talented actress opened up about her private life when she released her biography, Mamy Blue, a delightful mix of tragedy and comedy that lets the reader in on her extraordinary life.

When asked about her art, her way of working and about synchronicities in portraying parts on screen that run parallel in real life, Sarafian had this to say to cinevox.be: “Of course, when I have to play an intense character that holds a lot of sadness and anger, I can get shaken by it or reflect on it, but at this point in my career, I am professional enough to snap out of it and not take the character home. I think synchronicity definitely exists and it’s a beautiful thing, yet it’s very difficult for me to put my personal experiences in the roles that I play for I feel my life experiences are so much bigger. I’m not a method actor who says look I’m going to link my personal life to my acting role.”

Behind the scenes, Sarafian, who has Armenian roots, works with an Armenian community to garner petitions to end the war, reach peace agreements and gain the independence of Artsakh. Together with her only son, she also runs a successful fashion designer’s website.