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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

Hudson River Project

An Epic Recycled Kayak Ride Down New York's Great Waterway Soundtracked by Mogwai

Round-the-world cycling champion and adventure junky James Bowthorpe reunites with filmmaker Antony Crook to launch their latest audacious endeavor: rowing a boat constructed from New York’s refuse down the 315-mile length of the Hudson River. Today’s trailer was filmed over the course of several scouting missions to chart a route from the waterway’s highest source at Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains, down through the Hudson River Valley and into Manhattan. “We see cities as something separate from the wilderness, but the former evolved from the latter. I’m interested in the idea of how we set up these diametrically opposed state of minds,” Bowthorpe explains. “The Hudson River Project plays to this cyclic idea, charting the path that helped to build the megalopolis.” The full-length feature, which will be set to an original soundtrack by Scottish post-rock maestros Mogwai and starts filming this fall, will follow Bowthorpe collecting discarded materials and assembling his vessel before hauling the boat to the journey’s starting point on his bike. Having completed a similar journey along the Thames in London, the Hudson River’s long stretches of treacherous white water will pose new challenges for Bowthorpe, who has enlisted survival expert and outdoorsman Phil Wrigley to ghost him on the trip.

Visit our Facebook page for an exclusive album of photos by Antony Crook taken during the scouting missions. 

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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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