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March 1, 2014

Natalia Vodianova: #Neverstop

The Russian Supermodel Stars in Filmmaker Bruno Aveillan’s Celebration of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games

“What if?” is the question posed by Natalia Vodianova in #Neverstop, the inspirational film directed by the French filmmaker and artist Bruno Aveillan, released today to raise awareness for the athletes competing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games. The short imagines a heavily pregnant Vodianova running through an empty hangar with a prosthetic leg, her goal to challenge peoples’ preconceptions of disability. The Russian model, who left behind a childhood selling fruit on the streets of her home city Nizhniy Novgorod for a celebrated career as the face of brands such as Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent, has long been a champion of families raising children with disabilities, and helps to create play environments for disadvantaged children through her charity the Naked Heart Foundation. Vodianova spoke exclusively to NOWNESS about her motivations launching the  #Neverstop campaign, created with JWT International Moscow and her support of next week’s Paralympic Games.

Can you tell us about working with Russian swimmer Olesya Vladykina, the other female ambassador of the Games?
Natalia Vodianova:
It was incredibly inspiring for me to meet Olesya. She lost her arm in a bus accident that her friend died in, and she told me how she felt afterwards that of course it took a few months to adjust. However there are positive ways that her life has been changed since the accident. She started to appreciate life so much more, alongside the kindness and openness of people. And speaking to Jessica Long, the American swimmer who has 15 gold medals and holds 13 world records by the age of 21, you see someone who really just appreciates the richness of life.

What do you feel when you watch yourself transformed like this?
NV:
The visual is not showing a reality but an idea: what if? And that is an important question for all of us. When I saw the last edit of the film I cried. I’m really just glad that it happened and that we made it; a project that was full of little miracles.

Have you seen a shift in how disability is perceived in Russia?
NV:
We knew that the stigma of people with disability is still very strong in Russia, so we wanted to show the inspirational side of the Paralympic athletes. The transition towards inclusivity in a country with an infrastructure like Russia will take a very long time because it’s a very big country with it’s own difficulties. I want as many people as possible in Russia to see the film and would love it to speak to their hearts.

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Spotlight

Frequencies: Early Echo

Surfer Kassia Meador Rides Nature’s Rhythms in Bruce Muller's Short Film

Longboard icon Kassia Meador floats serenely across the majestic waves in surfer and filmmaker Bruce Muller’s Echo. The visual meditation is the first of four shorts teasing the release this fall of Frequencies, an experimental documentary and visual essay by Muller shot at prime surfing destinations across Southern California. Starring Meador and with an original score from Los Angeles-based psyche-pop trio E.S.P, Frequencies aims to explore how man can find synergy with nature’s cycles. “Their are so many different frequencies all around us at all times: ocean waves, sound waves, light waves, infrared and many others outside our range, but all have an effect on us,” explains professional surfer and passionate photographer Meador. “There are many parallels we can connect between surfing and navigating life.” Having previously made the music video for Warpaint’s single “Elephant”, Florida-native Muller combined his love of surfing and the fantastical films of Ridley Scott, Andrei Tarkovsky and Akira Kurosawa in the upcoming feature. “We exist in a world that is vast and dynamic,” he says. “We’re using surfing as a medium to explore how we harness these energies and the effects they have on us."

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Spotlight

Ping Pong, Senior Style

Meet the Elder Enthusiasts Going for Gold in a New Table Tennis Documentary

Sibling filmmakers Hugh and Anson Hartford expose the little-known world of octogenarian table tennis with a clip from their charming documentary, Ping Pong. The brothers focused their attention on the exceptional lives of the participants at the 2010 Over-80s Table Tennis Championships in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The band of athletes includes a fiercely competitive former French Resistance member, a 101-year-old wheelchair-bound Australian, and Les D’Arcy, a flamboyant ex-P.E. teacher with a penchant for rhymes. The brothers had an unorthodox approach when it came to choosing which subjects would tie the documentary together. “We covered the walls of my hotel room with profiles of different players,” explains Hugh. “Both their sport and home life story had to unfold in a way that fitted together but was also going to bring something different to the film.” Spanning three years and five countries, the documentary saw the directors travel through Stuttgart, Houston and Stockholm before finally arriving in Inner Mongolia for the competition climax.

Ping Pong is due in festivals across the US towards the end of the year and will be part of the East End Film Festival, which runs from July 3-8.

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