Director Biography – Ania Smolenskaia (HIGHER GROUND)

Ania Smolenskaia is an award-winning editor and film-maker. She began her career in news in 2007. After several years of producing and editing news reports and documentaries for an independent online news service in Toronto, Canada, and Washington, D.C., she moved to London, where she soon joined WING, a creative agency specialising in content creation for some of the biggest brands in the world. In the ensuing years Ania has edited and post-produced numerous short and long form films, from TV ads and music videos to documentaries and narrative drama.

Higher Ground is her directorial debut. Currently Ania is back to the world of freelance editing, and is also developing a narrative film and a documentary.

Director Statement

When I read Higher Ground I knew this was not just a funny and original script, the subject matter was extremely timely and important. The main character, Hannah, is whisked away on a holiday by her handsome new boyfriend, but mid-flight she gets her period and embarks on a covert operation to locate a tampon, but her mission fails, as she comes up against indifference, unease and awkwardness.

The effect that the cultural shame around periods has on women and girls cannot be understated. I myself am too familiar with the idea that the “problem” should remain hidden or you risk total humiliation, so it’s even more satisfying when Hannah finds a way to turn the tables and not just speak up but to rally all the women on that airplane! Yes, periods are still a taboo but let’s be honest, this bodily function is essential for the survival of the human race. So the message I’m trying to communicate with this film is that speaking up can help us fix this issue.

Through a lengthy casting process we found Abigail Davis, an incredible actress, who gave Hannah such a wonderful combination of vulnerability and spirit. Finding the right airplane set (and the one we could afford) was quite a big feat, but once we did, our hardworking WING crew transformed an old plane into a perfect film set for a day. I was lucky to have a brilliant co-Director, Will Ingham, who alongside his wife Tessa also runs WING, and who self-funded this short.

Our hope is that this film lets everyone see the absurdity of stigma surrounding menstruation. From horror films to violent computer games to contact sports, blood, wounds and cuts surround us everywhere, so isn’t it strange we still have trouble accepting that period blood is simply… normal.

By femalefilmfestival

The irony of this festival is that its goal is to not be around in 5 years time. To eventually not be relevant because there is zero need to have a festival geared for female talent and female stories because the stories presented in Hollywood and around the world are a balanced showcase of the human experience from both sexes. Our goal is to achieve a lot of success and then fold into oblivion simply because there is no need for this festival. This festival was created by the FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival as a simple reaction to a strong need to showcase female talent from around the world in a more profound way. When putting together the weekly festival, the administration noticed a lack of a female presence in the stories being shown at the festival. A classic example and analogy to the frustration is how the festival noticed that even the smaller roles in a screenplay were written for a man to play. There was zero reason for this in many stories. How a police officer, or a political campaign manager, for example with 3-4 lines in a screenplay was a "HE" character. Why? And these are the screenplays written by the winners! The talented one who have obtained agents and have began/beginning their careers as a writer.

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