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Elena Rossini Flew in from Paris to Screen Her Body Image Documentary

After the screening, I got the chance to sit down with Elena Rossini and asked a few questions about her journey as a film director and her work in The Illusionist: Body Image Documentary. Her story reminds us college women to not forget or give up our voices even if the entire industry tries to shut you down. She was questioned about her eligibility and credibility as a film director and being asked what she really does and assumed film directing is her hobby. Because there is so little visibility of female film directors in this industry, it took her eight years to finish this important documentary topic: women’s voices matter.

As a young women and working in the film industry, you describe your work in three things: film/photography, technology, and social justice — what does each of them mean to you?


“I think that not that many women are given the chance to be media makers. I want to promote their visibility and tell women’s stories because I feel that very often we do not get to hear their voices in our culture and for me it is important to be able to tell 50 percent of the world population.”


“I have always been a geek for technology since the age of five. My dad brings home old different generations of computers, and I began coding since I was little; I think it is my love of technology that got me into film because I began experimenting video editing and loved that. For all of my films, I have been doing everything from start to finish [such as] writing, producing, fundraising, and directing. For The Illusionists, I did all the motion graphics and visuals, including the website. I think it is very important to master all technological aspects of your profession.”

Social Justice:

“It is important to promote my values. I am very drawn to the world of documentary because I feel that I can really speak about issues that are important. It is a lot easier to be able to promote social justice issues and values in documentaries. For me, it is everything I do, especially for girl and women empowerment.”

After watching the documentary screening of The Illusionists, I want to ask you — what inspired you to do a body image film?

“When I graduated from film school, I never encountered any kind of stereotypes that were tied to my gender. I always got the message from my parents, teachers and classmates that you can be whatever you want to be – sky is the limit. It was such a stark contrast when I got into the real world. Whenever I began to introduce myself as a film director, people would laugh in my face.”

If you were to ask people on the streets, or me, to name five female film directors, it would be very difficult to answer that. For you, which female director do you admire?

“I absolutely love Ava DuVernay. I am so happy of all her success she has with Selma and 13th. She now has a massive Disney film too.”

What are some struggles you encounter in this industry?

“People look at me and think I can not do my job. I am not able to get funding and distribution for that. It is not a trivial issue. I am not the only one; it happens to many women and colleagues of mine. I think and unfortunately that is why the biggest films and television shows are mostly directed by men. They like to surround themselves with people who are like them so getting into that “boys” club is incredibly hard – breaking that glass ceiling is hard.”

How did you overcome these struggles?

“I took full advantage of the magic of the internet to get funding, get the word out, and find volunteers in each country I went to for music and voice over.

It took you eight years to film the documentary but six years of people rejecting your project — what kept you going?

“The one thing that kept me going was the fact that I set up a blog and social media accounts for The Illusionists since day 1, when I knew I wanted to make a documentary. I found a tribe of people that were incredibly supportive and kept cheering me on; I would get tweets, emails and Facebook messages from people in India, South America and the United States thanking me for devoting time to make a film about it.”

For our HC followers, what would you tell them if they are struggling with their confidence and women empowerment?

“To believe in yourself and the resources that are already in your disposal. There is a saying in Italian: ‘chi fa da se, fa per tre.’ It means you better do something for yourself. The first five years on this project I spent were wasted because of waiting to get funded from a production company. It was a transformative experience. I quickly realized the power of my own voice and how to utilize my own strength.”

Photos courtesy of: Jacquelyn Hsiao and Elena Rossini  

Jacquelyn Hsiao

Wake Forest '20

Jacquelyn is a senior majoring in Economics with an Entrepreneurship minor. Jacquelyn is the President and Co-Campus Correspondent of Her Campus Wake Forest Chapter for two consecutive years. During her free time, she loves to design chic graphics, create trendy polyvore boards and work on other fashion projects. 
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