In April, I interviewed Andrews Alumna Nina Vallado before the premiere of her documentary film, “Sisterly” at Andrews University. Four months later, “Sisterly” has garnered numerous awards and acclamations. Something about this movie deeply touches the hearts and minds of all who watch it. One viewer testified that the film was “so incredible that I, along with many others, sat through two back-to-back screenings of “Sisterly.”” She went on to say that the film had really inspired her, and believes it has the power to inspire anyone who watches it.
On August 10, “Sisterly” was announced as a finalist along with only 6 others for the national Student Academy Awards Documentary category. Selected out of the 1,600 applicants, the other finalists were students from schools including Stanford, NYU, Columbia University, and UC Berkeley. “Sisterly” has also been selected for the Student category for FirstGlance Film Festivals, the first and only indie film fest in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. It also won five awards at the 2017 Christian Film Festival: Best Student Film, Best Producer, Best Animation, Inspire Award, and Best Director Fan Favorite. The film was recognized as an official selection for the Soo Film Festival in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and was winner of the best short documentary film at the Boston Short Film Festival.
It’s possible that the film’s appeal comes from its unique blend of two meaningful themes; Lisa’s journey with autism, and Nina’s journey as she reaches across the barriers to intimately know her sister. Even though struggles with autism might not be something everyone has experienced, the film blends this theme with the universal themes of sibling and family relationships, and as a result the viewer is drawn deeper into both worlds.
Nina says that once you meet an autistic person, you have still met only one autistic person. Every autistic child’s journey is their own, but “Sisterly” can really help you to understand the unique nuances, challenges, and experiences of an autistic person’s life. Nina’s film does an excellent job of highlighting the uniqueness each autistic child faces, and by watching it the viewer is made more aware of the beautiful complexities and geniuses hidden in each autistic person.
The movie encourages us to push through any barriers in our lives in order to get to know our siblings and family members better. Nina said, in an interview with Spectrum Magazine in April 2017, “This film changed my relationship with Lisa in such a positive way. The film allowed me to fail and succeed in our relationship. I saw my mistakes and learned from them. This film has taught me that it is okay to try to make an effort in the relationship even if it hurts or fails in the end. I have learned to take risks, even small ones, to better our sisterhood.”
Follow the “Sisterly” Facebook page at facebook.com/sisterlyfilm/ to find information for screenings; the film should become more widely available in 2018.