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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

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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Spotlight

Ivy League Crew

College Rivalries Come Out for the Prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta

Photographer Martien Mulder captures the timeless beauty and athleticism of the United States’ largest boat race, the Head of the Charles Regatta. Over 300,000 spectators attended the Brooks Brothers-sponsored weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to watch a hundred river races and the classic rivalries between Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League schools play out. First held in 1965, the Head of the Charles Regatta was established by three Cambridge Boat Club members with advice from Harvard University’s sculling instructor, who proposed a three-mile race to the head of the river. Although participants ranged from school children to seniors, the faces that caught a few eyes this year were Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the identical twins portrayed in David Fincher’s The Social Network and who rowed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, racing against each other. Fred Schoch, who has been director of the event for 21 years and is a prize-winning rower himself, has seen tensions between clubs come and go. “The rivalries between Harvard and Yale now pale in comparison to the East vs. West rivalries,” he explains. “The University of Washington (Seattle) and California Berkeley have been wreaking havoc with the Ivies for generations.” Regardless, it was celebrations all around for Harvard, who fought off 17 teams to claim victory at the Men’s Championship Eights with its first victory in the competition since 1977.

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