Director Biography – Kirsten Brass (MONSTER)

Kirsten Brass is an emerging filmmaker from Toronto, Ontario. She is currently completing her BFA in Film Studies at Ryerson University. She was awarded the Jack Kuper Film Award in 2020 for demonstrating creative potential and ingenuity in film production and writing for film. Kirsten’s films are often full of magical elements or creatures of the unknown. She frequently works with child actors, animals and many kinds of puppets.

Director Biography – Pauline Pelsy-Johann (OVER THE SKY)

Born in the countryside in France (Seine-et-Marne region), she grew intermittently between Paris and an island in Brittany. Her parents are actors, theater directors and writer.
Productions (selection)

After the experience of many short student films, she signed her first film produced at the age of twenty-two years old, “The Renaissance or the intermediate life ” (Paramonti Productions, Cinécinéma productions, Forum des Images, 2009, 26 ‘), in winning a tender of Cinécinéma television channels on the theme “Paris, cinema and a place”. In her film, she invites some directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Claude Chabrol and Michel Deville, to speak staged in a Parisian brasserie that they have chosen as the backdrop for their film.

In the United States, she directs five documentaries and a short fiction film, including “A New Chinese Woman” (28 ‘), which deals with the education and emancipation of Chinese women at the beginning of the 20th century who go through learning Mandarin and English languages. The final version of the film will be completed in China in 2013. For this film, it includes the support of the Yale University archives which lends images to her.

In 2014, Smith College in Paris and the Ministry of Women’s Rights in France gave her carte blanche to design a website for the event “March 8 is all year.” The bilingual site Quoi le féminisme ? / What’s up with feminism brings hundreds of interviews she has conducted over several months of women and men of all ages and backgrounds who give their own definition of the word “feminism”.

In 2018, the theatrical release of her documentary ” Entre les barreaux les mots / The words between bars ” (56 ‘) deals with detainees from Fleury-Mérogis, the largest prison in Europe, who discover literature and poetry. The film wins the Best Doc Award at the Mediterranean Film Festival and gets several other festival selections. The American platform Docademia distributes the film on the North American territory in universities and cultural places.

In 2019, her short film “The Seagulls Season”, produced by Matsylie Productions, is selected by European Short Pitch of NISI MASA, an European Writing Residence in Sofia, Bulgaria and Brest, France. The screenplay also received the Best Screenplay Award at the Women In Film France Women’s Writers’ Lab 2016.

In 2020, for the “Connaissances du monde” TV programs, she is going to film in Chile a collection of 4 documentaries : 3×52′ and 1×75′ which explores the cultural diversity of the country through its history and the ethnic minorities that compose it.

Between History, archeology and legend, “Myths and Legends Rapa Nui”(52′) narrates with sequences in animation and motion design the mysteries of Easter Island told by the Native.

In the ethnographic tradition, “The Tapati Festival of Easter Island”(52′) focuses on following the family of the Queen of the Year, their traditional and ritual activities, which promotes and transmits the Rapa Nui culture from generation to generation.

In a more political aim, “Arica:the Carnaval con la Fuerza del sol”(52′) transcribes the annual carnival that shakes the border town with Peru where the Andean peoples like the Aymaras and Afro-descendants protest by dancing for the inclusion of ethnical minorities in the New constitution of the Pinera government. Through the four corners of the territory and various Amerindian communities such as the Mapuche or the Huilliche, “Chile : land of weaving and crossbreeding” (75′)traces the various traditional weaving techniques, their cosmogonic meanings and their expertise, by linking the intimacy of the characters to the history of the country.

At the age of fifteen, she joined a cinema-audiovisual option at the High school Honoré de Balzac (Paris), where she was initiated to the analysis of films, the art of criticism, history and theories of cinema, but also to the writing of script, the directing, the filming, the sound recording and the editing. She will wear the double hat of scriptwriter and director of the film diploma of her promotion.
At the age of eighteen, she began her university studies with a Bachelor’s degree in Film studies at Paris 7-Denis Diderot, which she pursued in Master 1 research. Her thesis is entitled “Twentynine Palms by Bruno Dumont or the metaphysics of the borderline”.
During the summer following her graduation, she was hired as assistant by the director Bruno Dumont on the set of his film “Hadewijch”. In parallel with her studies, she worked as an assistant director starting at the age of nineteen with directors such as Katia Scarton-Kim, May Bouhada, and Frédéric Sojcher.
In 2009, she joined the Master 2 Professional Ciné-Création of Paris 1-Pantheon Sorbonne. Then, she flies to the United States to study at Smith College where she gets an Cultural Studies Diploma (American studies and Film studies).

After graduating in 2012 with a Master 2 in Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne (Paris 4), whose her thesis is entitled “The film adaptation of Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor by John Huston”, she goes to teach French Literature and French Cinema in a University in China, in the Shandong region.

She returned to Paris in 2013 and resumed her activities as film director and film teacher in various instituts for a wide audience ranging from 3 to 77 years old.
Today, she teaches Film theory and practice in the Junior Year Abroad program at Smith College in Paris and in the Master Documentary cinema and Visual anthropology at the University of Nanterre (Paris 10).

She writes short and feature screenplays and directs documentaries and fiction films.

Director Statement

With this short film, I tell the story of a family explosion through the eyes of a little girl. Having known the divorce of my parents very young, this subject is inherent to my personal history. To build my story, I was inspired by the setting of my childhood where I finally shot the film. Beyond the family drama that this little girl encounters, dreams and hope prevail. After her father leaves home, she is looking for a way to live her life. The character of Alice, at first marked by the violence of the abandonment of the father, is won over by mimicry: if the father leaves home, then so can she. Through the initial experience, she tries to understand a situation that, for her, makes no sense. Indeed, what can we find better that far away from home ?
Touched by grace and childish poetry, Alice reveals herself to be an adventurous character and explores life in her own way, affirming her own point of view, which takes root in the air.
I chose to make a film about innocence, that moment in childhood when everything changes, where the reality of adults brutally penetrates the poetic sphere of children. Alice’s strength is to respond to this violence with the ambition of a life of her own in which she does what she wants, like living in heaven.

Short Film: OVER THE SKY, 20min., France, Drama/Family

Alice, a nine-year-old girl who lives in the countryside, faces the breakdown of her parents when the father leaves home. The brutality of the grownups world destabilizes Alice’s poetic imagination and her carelessness made up of playing in nature with her friend Leo. In reaction, she decides to become independent and to live by herself far away, in the sky, aboard a glider. But this loneliness cut her off from her friend Leo…

Project Links

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.