23. September 2017 · Comments Off on Five Questions With Kasha Sequoia Slavner, Director of “The Sunrise Storyteller” · Categories: Canadian Filmmakers, Documentaries, Five Questions with..., Uncategorised · Tags: , , , ,
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As a concerned high school student, Kasha Sequoia Slavner was disillusioned and outraged by the negativity and powerlessness she felt as a consumer of mainstream media. She was compelled to find an alternative narrative.

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Kasha Sequoia Slavner

So on her 16th birthday, she embarked on an ambitious mission to travel the world for six months with her mom, camera in hand and no clear road-map, in search of what it means to be a global citizen. During her travels she encountered a variety of individuals from trailblazers finding sustainable solutions to major world issues, to those who have overcome major adversity with tremendous resilience.

Two years later at the age of 18, Kasha premiered her feature documentary film The Sunrise Storyteller at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women in New York to a standing ovation. Following New York, the film has gone on to win four awards and screen at a number of film festivals in the US and Canada. Wanting to learn more about the film, Five Questions With spoke to Kasha before the film screens at the One World Film Festival on Sunday October 1, 2017 at Saint Paul University.

How did you research and find the stories featured in your film?
To be quite honest, the process of finding the people who I’d covered was organic. The stories had not been pre-planned. I set out on a journey to seek out the stories. My mom and I didn’t even know which countries we would be traveling to. I found most of the stories through people I met on the ground in the local communities I ended up in, and through conversation, I’d be pointed in the right direction. Then I would begin the research process.

What were some of the challenges you faced in the making your film?
Some of the challenges in the making of the film included gathering development funds so we could travel and collect the stories abroad. I ran three separate crowd source funding campaigns so we could leave for our 6-month trip. I also ran two of those campaigns while traveling abroad so I could continue to stay out in the field, as well as get back home. The biggest challenge was the editing process, as I was in my last semester at high school. Along with doing multiple essay assignments and final exams, I was also on a deadline to finish my film. It was like having two full time jobs and doing overtime on each.

Sunrise Storyteller 01One Flip Flop Nap Dow, Intern at Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai.
A refugee who walked from Burma to Thailand at 10 years of age.

Your film features many incredible stories and amazing people, which ones stand out the most for you?
I am always most touched by young women leaders. I know what it’s like to be a young woman and the inevitable challenges that come with that but even so, I recognized my own challenges as a western woman did not even compare to the struggles they had to face on a day to day basis. I’ve also learned about the adversity young women face around the world by hearing from these inspirational people. To see them rise above the challenges they’ve faced is truly empowering to me and I remind myself of their stories often.

Sunrise Storyteller 02Surviving Heideveld a South African township fraught with drugs
teen pregnancy and gangsterism. Micheala Dampies, 16, Cape Town

The words “Hope”, “Love”, “Courage”, “Freedom”, etc appear as titles throughout the film. Were they always part of your overall vision for the film during filming or did they come about during the editing stage?
These came about in the editing process. All the stories are brought together by their shared resilience and hope, but each individual has their own specific wisdom to share, which I felt was well categorized by these titles. It helps the audience to transition from hearing one story to the next, almost like television episodes. It was interesting because I had chosen the characters first but when looking at them, I realized that they all brought a unique trait and message and that’s how the titles for their segments came into being. It was magical really because it felt like all the core messages I wanted to bring to the audience were there.

If there’s anything I want audiences to take away from this film is that we have the ability to go out into the world and fearlessly change it. The people in my film are examples of everyday role models. Some may simply seek to inspire their peers, others have created organizations to tackle pressing issues. Whether it’s big or small, all our actions make impact.

Sunrise Storyteller 03Kasha Sequoia Slavner filming on location in Khayelitsha, South Africa.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers or emerging filmmakers about making their first film?
To me, filmmaking has become a very personal way to express my activism. Making the world a better place is what makes me passionate about telling stories. To any young filmmakers or activists I always suggest finding your passion and think about how you can serve the world. Find a specific issue that drives you. For me it’s about connecting with people and making impact. Think about the unique power art has to do this, and use the gift wisely. Also, never be afraid to ask for help. There will always be people with more experience. Connecting with these people is a great opportunity to learn and grow your skill set.


Sunrise Storyteller 04

At the age of 14, Kasha was the youngest member to join Canada’s longest-standing and only feminist peace organization, The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Since then, she has accompanied the organization as a youth delegate a number of times on their annual trip down to New York to The Commission on The Status of Women at the United Nations.

Recently Kasha was selected for the class of 2017 Global Teen Leaders by legendary music producer Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation & TEDxTeen as well as she was a ‘finalist’ in the 60th Golden Eagle Awards for Student & Youth Media.

Kasha is currently working on the impact and outreach strategy for The Sunrise Storyteller. In order to reach out to the educational market she is developing a toolkit for high school students to be paired in a workshop with the film. She would also like to do a more in-depth feature film following one or two subjects as opposed to multiple stories on issues she is passionate about such as peace, gender equality and youth.

The Sunrise Storyteller is one of the many great Canadian documentaries featured at the 28th annual One World Film Festival, taking place at Saint Paul University from September 28th to October 1st 2017. The film screens on Sunday October 1st at 3:00PM followed by a Q & A with Kasha Sequoia Slavner.


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