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Exploring the construction of identity through film

Unpacking the complicated concept of identity, local filmmaker Kristina Fithern-Stiele’s second directorial project explores the fluid nature of the human experience and had its premiere in Toronto last week at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

CANMORE — Unpacking the complicated concept of identity, a local filmmaker's new short film explores the fluid nature of the human experience.

Breathe, Kristina Fithern-Stiele’s second directorial project is a short five-minute film that examines a young woman as she struggles to confront and embrace her identity.

The film jumps back and forth as Lou, the protagonist, flashes from a scene swimming in a pool to scenes speaking with the grandmother she never met, Ella, and her girlfriend Kim.

“It’s kind of her, Lou, bouncing back between these two figures in her life who she loves and cares about,” Fithern-Stiele said. “Each reflects a part of herself.”

The film was inspired by a short story she wrote almost a decade ago when she was around 18 years old. Her film will have its world premiere at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival last Friday (Oct. 25) in Toronto.

Fithern-Stiele said she had not thought about the story in years, but it came back into her life unexpectedly.

She recognized immediately that with some revisions it would make a great film.

“It was more relevant to where I am now, as opposed to when I wrote it,” she explained. “It was neat to kind of revisit that past self, especially because I was in a totally different place.”

Breathe is part of a collection of work Fithern-Stiele has ammased that explores the theme of the complexity of humanity and the individual pursuit and establishment of identity.

“We’re always, I think, two people at the same time – who we want to be inside and who we are presenting to the world,” Fithern-Stiele said. “Those two images can often be at war, but I think there is also a balance we achieve that makes us who we are ... Everyone is always struggling with that."

The state of identity is fluid, Fithern-Stiele added, adjusting based on where and when a person is existing in the moment.

The film takes place at a pool to reflect that like water, personal identity is in a constant state of flux.

“If you dive down deep enough it’s like a whole other world – the idea of water, in general, is really special to me, it’s always changing, always flowing and always adapting.”

Fithern-Stiele was born and raised in Canmore and said she continues to draw on her experiences of living in the town.

Growing up in the Bow Valley bred an appreciation of nature into her soul, Fithern-Stiele said, explaining that she has a “nature focused approach to things.”

“That’s how I was brought up in the mountains,” she said. “You go outside and you’re in nature. I think that’s definitely heavily influenced by my voice.”

She works to bring that love of the great outdoors and naturalistic philosophy to the projects she works on.

It was a fun experience making Breathe she said, explaining that she felt more prepared this time around because it is her second time directing.

“I had a better idea of what I wanted and how to express what I wanted,” Fithern-Stiele said.

She also served as a producer for the film, which allowed her to handpick all of her crew.

“That helped a lot,” Fithern-Stiele said, explaining that it aided in creating great on set chemistry that one can feel on the screen when watching Breathe.

Fithern-Stiele said she hopes she will be able to showcase Breathe at additional screenings and festivals sometime in the near future.

“I would love the opportunity to just keep showing it,” Fithern-Stiele said. “The best part of art is you can share it with people and everyone sees something different in it.”

Fithern-Stiele said she is planning on focusing on her writing, and possibly taking a step back from directing to focus on producing to “facilitate creation.”

She enjoys dabbling in all aspects of film making because it opens a world of possibilities.

“I get a taste for every role,” Fithern-Stiele said.


Chelsea Kemp

About the Author: Chelsea Kemp

Chelsea Kemp joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2020 as editor, bringing with her experience as a reporter and photojournalist. She writes about politics, health care, arts and entertainment and Indigenous stories.
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