DIRECTED by: Ellie Berry

Shadows begins in 1944, when a young Canadian combat camerawoman, Elodie Brochu, records a horrific crime committed by a British intelligence officer while she is stationed overseas in France. Before she can screen the film, she is murdered and the film is lost. Seventy-three years later, Claire, a university student working in a film archive, stumbles upon a cryptically marked film from 1944. As she races to uncover the mystery behind the film, she is pursued by a murderous organization intent upon keeping the truth of the film secret forever.

Five Questions with Director Ellie Berry

What was a unique challenge you faced in making this film?

Shadows was made as my fourth year thesis film at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario. I was working with a very small cast and crew (usually just a cinematographer, sound recordist/producer and myself on set with the actress), and this poised its own challenges. There were also a lot of unexpected problems and sudden scheduling issues. The shooting for film was actually wrapped the night before the premiere, and the final audio recording made an hour before the first screening, which is absolutely crazy to think about now, and definitely not recommended. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my amazing crew, actors and the incredible people at the Queen’s film equipment room. 

Where did the inspiration for this film come from?

The inspiration for this film came from working in the film archive at Queen’s as a digital archival assistant during the summer before my fourth year. Working to digitize and preserve the department’s extensive collection of 16mm films, I fell in love with the tangibility and presence of physical film. Near the end of the summer, I was given a large box of cryptically marked films in battered cans from the main archive to digitize. While the cameraman was known, and the films were found to be full of beautiful Arctic landscapes, these “unmarked” films sparked my imagination. Shadows quickly flashed into being, the first draft written during a frantic weekend of typing. The character of Claire and the plot emerged as a direct response to my own experiences as a film archival student, with the central role of Elodie’s film a reflection of my admiration for the medium. Elodie’s role in the war was also inspired by the Canadian Film and Photo Unit (CFPU) in WWII, and Sgt. Karen Hermeston, the first and only female combat photographer with the unit.

 

Who are your top influences?

Jane Campion, Greta Gerwig and Hayao Miyazaki are some of my top influences. I actually watched Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind for the first time when I was developing the script, and the titular character’s resilience and strength in the face of immense adversity was a vital inspiration for the main character in Shadows. Nausicaä is intelligent and empathetic, continuing to fight for what she believes in despite the world crumbling around her.

What do you hope people take away from this film?

With this film I was interested in exploring ideas of authorship, female community and the question of the truth—particularly in an age where media can be altered, copied and transferred in so many different ways. I hope that my film will be both entertaining, and encourage viewers to think about these concepts.

What’s your personal takeaway from this production?

Making this film was an incredible and stressful learning experience. While it isn’t perfect, it stands today as something I made happen against the odds, and for that I am proud. Moving forward, this film will hopefully stand as both a reminder of what I have made, and a promise of how I can continue to improve. I love stories about women and female communities, and am excited about the prospect of telling more of these stories in the future.

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