One Girl, a film about beauty and diversity

From the movie One Girl | Photo courtesy of Rosa Russo

The 21st annual Reel to Real Film Festival for Youth presents culturally diverse films and documentaries, aiming to expose youth to new ideas and cultural perspectives. One Girl, a documentary offering a glimpse into the life of five girls from five different counties, fits exactly this aim.

I wanted to show how diverse and beautiful the world is,” explains Rosa Russo, director of One Girl.

One Girl will be showing at Vancity Theatre on Apr. 9 and 13.

A day in the life

Through her documentary, Russo shows an ordinary day in the lives of five girls, all living in different countries but along the same geographical meridian. Their lives vastly differ, from their education and lifestyle, to the challenges they face and dreams they have. It explores their schools, daily chores and how they play and interact with the world. Through their lives, One Girl aims to inspire viewers to have a better understanding of their own world.

Russo describes how “a friend showed me a video of a small boy who had to walk two hours to school every day, and when he got there he couldn’t concentrate because he was starving.”

“We always complain. When the bus is late, or the internet is slow, we complain,” she explains.

Russo was inspired to create something which showed people how lucky they are and illustrate that what may seem like an ordinary life to some people, appears extraordinary to others. Through One Girl, she wanted to show the reality of the girls’ lives, while also showing a contrast.

“Everything in film now is so huge with superheroes and things. I’m afraid that children won’t know what is normal. I’m not against this kind of film, but we now rarely have films of normal people,” she says.

Casting contrasts

The five girls, from Finland, Jordan, South Sudan, Romania and Turkey, each tell their own unique story. When trying to find girls to be in the documentary, Russo struggled to connect with anyone at the school in South Sudan. After attending a mass a few days later, she was approached by a girl named Sunday.

“[Sunday] was very smart and saw me as an opportunity. I like that, I feel like she chose me,” explains Russo.

In Romania, Russo was instantly drawn to a girl named Mariana. “She wanted to pose and show how cool she was,” she says.

In Finland, Russo conducted a casting, so lots of girls were given a potential opportunity to be part of the documentary. Contrastingly, in Jordan, a girl was selected to be in the documentary rather than Russo being able choose. Even in the search for girls, the contrast in opportunities between the different countries was evident.

Russo and the Reel to Real

Originally from Italy, Russo started as an assistant director and went on to set up her own company with the help of friends. Due to difficulties in Italy with the film industry, Russo moved to London. There, she worked with independent producers doing films and documentaries alongside working on her own company. Russo is now an award-winning producer and director and her productions have been selected and awarded in the main film festivals around the world.

“I want people to be able to see themselves as well as how diverse the world is, and look into the beauty of little things,” says Russo.

Russo’s mission fits well with that of the Real to Reel. This festival is designed to involve youth in both viewing and discussing professional films, through public screenings, workshops, panel discussions and public forums. Festival staff hope to expose young people to new ideas and perspectives, explore issues that are important to their generation and help them to gain an understanding of the art of filmmaking.

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