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“Sisterly” Directed by Nina Vallado

"Sisterly" is a documentary film from director Nina Vallado.

A touching story about Nina and Lisa and how their relationship continues to grow after Lisa is diagnosed with autism. Director Nina Vallado gives the viewer an inside look at the struggles and rewards of dealing with this medical condition. The Oregon Documentary Film Festival judges were inspired by this story and appreciate Nina's ability to give the viewer a first person experience with this beautiful family.

  • Film Name: "Sisterly" 
  • Director: Directed by Nina Vallado
  • Art Director: Amber Kuo
  • Composer: André Barros
  • Runtime: 28 Minutes
  • Screening: Friday, November 10th, 2017
  • Spectrum Magazine Article | Student Academy Awards | LinkedIn
  • Tagline: "Nina and Lisa are two sisters destined to be the best of friends, but with a diagnosis autism at the age of 2, Lisa’s voice disappears. Without communication, Nina and Lisa set out to find connection and sisterhood."

"Sisterhood is a different matter, and adding autism into the mix, only complicates the matter more." Nina Vallado

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"Sisterly" Director Nina Vallado

Interview with Nina Vallado:

We had an opportunity to catch up with director Nina Vallado for a short interview about the "Sisterly" film's back story. 

  1. Why did you think that the Oregon Documentary Film Festival was a good place to submit and screen your film? “Because it's focused on documentary work, and because of the location.”
  2. What is the title of your film and is there any special meaning to the title? “Sisterly; It was a title that my professors and I came up with. I wanted the word "sister" to be part of the title, and one professor asked me to describe the film. "Sisterly" is the adverb that came from that conversation. Phonetically, it has the beginning sound of the word, "Lisa."
  3. Why did you choose to tell this particular story? “I wanted to tell this story from the POV of siblings, because I find that there are not many stories that deal with the topic of siblings, especially within the context of autism.”
  4. Did you discover certain story elements during the production of this film that you never expected to find in the planning stages of this project? “Over the course of four years, my film changed it story over and over again. Which is expected in documentary work, but because I allowed things to develop and change, I discovered so much about my personal relationship with my sister through the film's production. I was able to use the filmmaking process to get to know my sister in a way I wasn't able to, or didn't have the courage to do so, before.”
  5. What camera(s) did you use to during the production of this film? Discuss any advantages or limitations that you may have run into, from an equipment perspective. “I used the cameras that my school owned - Canon C100, Panasonic GH4. I found that my primary camera, the C100, would change some of the dynamic between the characters and I. Some of the footage I captured using my iPhone, mainly because of convenience and intimacy. It was familiar to my subjects and to myself.”
  6. Did anything happen during the production of this film that was very interesting, but never made it on camera? “There were many intimate moments captured between my sister and I, as well as with my mother and I. The film ends with the conclusion that I do not have to share everything with everyone. Those moments I have kept for myself.”
  7. How did you fund this film? Did you use crowd funding? Do you have pressure to recoup the production costs somehow? “I funded the film mostly with my own personal account. I set up a Kickstarter campaign for finishing funds - all post production and distribution purposes.”
  8. What kind of audience reaction are you getting to this film? Discuss any Positives or Negatives that you feel comfortable talking about. “The audience has surprisingly reacted similarly to how my family reacted. Being a very personal film, I find that people are still able to apply certain experiences of mine to their own sibling experience.”
  9. Do you have plans for a sequel or future film that you are working on? Please discuss. “I have ideas, but nothing solid yet. I think creating a personal narrative took a big toll on myself and my family, which ended being very worthwhile, but I want to take a break from something so close to home.”
  10. You have completed a documentary film, which is a huge achievement. Do you have any advice for a future filmmaker that is about to start a documentary project? Advice that you wish you had been given before you started yours? “Know yourself and be comfortable with yourself. Being locked away in the editing suite of my school for hours and hours each day pushed me to be comfortable and face my fears. Get to know yourself, and make a movie that is for you.”

Director's Statement:

The relationship between siblings is difficult to define. A relationship between parent and child, or between friends, is easily understood and carries certain expectations. Sisterhood is a different matter, and adding autism into the mix, only complicates the matter more. My film is about the complexities of a sisterhood without communication. My sister Lisa is diagnosed with autism, and for the first 16 years of her life she did not communicate. After learning rapid-prompt method, a communication method using a stencil board, her life changed. While Lisa’s life was beginning anew, my life remained almost unchanged. Two people living under the same roof, sharing the same family, sharing similar experiences, yet, living almost opposite lives. The world of autism is one that isolates and builds unwanted walls between neurotypicals and those on the autism spectrum. Misunderstanding and broken communication have been the bricks that separated my sister and me. I have faced these walls for years , but rarely tried to climb over them, or tear them down. In the four years of my thesis production, I have learned more about my sister than I have my entire life. My camera allowed me to focus more clearly on her struggles, her pain, her story. Throughout the production of this film, I have questioned my role in her life as her older sister. In my film, I intertwine the search for connection with my sister with her personal search for independence. My film is a pursuit for a meaningful relationship within the world of autism. The story builds as we learn to communicate. The more we learn about one another, the more we tear down the walls that separate us. The film is not meant to resolve all of our problems, but to come to terms with the sisterhood that we are creating for ourselves.

"Sisterly" Director Nina Vallado

Director's Nina Vallado's Bio:

Nina Vallado was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and moved to the United States of America at the age of six. She received her BFA in Documentary Film from Andrews University. Nina’s passion for social justice and equality is stemmed from her experiences as an immigrant and her close relationship with autism. Nina strives to tell stories that can evoke empathy and connection between human beings. She strongly believes that storytelling is the world’s greatest tool for change. Nina has worked on short documentary projects that have won awards, such as "Then Came Sandy" and "Papi". Her senior project, "Sisterly," for her undergraduate studies, focuses on her complex relationship with her sister with autism. "Sisterly" is a student film produced over the course of four years and has involved artists and professionals from Brazil, United States of America, Portugal and Iceland.

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