The World or Nothing (El Mundo o Nada) is the first non-fiction feature film by award-winning Slovak-Canadian filmmaker, Ingrid Veninger. A portrait of 29-year-old Cuban twin brothers, Rubert and Rubildo, which begins two-months after their arrival in Barcelona, Spain. The film explores the obsession and opportunity of today’s social media, the emotional cost of having big ambitions, the intimate bonds of sibling love, and the challenges of building a new life. For the brothers, “The World” means achieving one-million friends on social media, making their parents proud, starting a family, and gaining international recognition as a dancing, singing, performing duo. “Nothing” is not an option.
Born in Bratislava and raised in Canada, The World or Nothing is Veninger’s first experience with directing non-fiction. Since 2008, she has written/directed six narrative fiction feature films, (Only, Modra, i am a good person/i am a bad person, The Animal Project, He Hated Pigeons and Porcupine Lake), which have premiered at international festivals including, TIFF, Rotterdam, Slamdance, Whistler, Rome, OUTFest, MoMA and Busan, garnering awards and distribution worldwide. The recipient of the TFCA Jay Scott Prize, EDA Award for Best Director, TheWIFTS Visionary Award, and participant of the Berlinale Talents, Rotterdam Producer’s Lab and inaugural TIFF Studio. Veninger co-founded the 1KWave in Toronto and initiated the pUNK Films FEMMES LAB to foster original screenplays written by Canadian women, sponsored by Academy Award winner Melissa Leo. In May 2019, Veninger received her MFA in Cinema Studies at York University and presented The World or Nothing (El Mundo o Nada) to a world premiere audience at Hot Docs.
Ingrid Veninger is fervently determined to walk her path. And she has tread all the major paths in the film industry, working as an actor, writer, director, producer, and professor. You may have spotted Ingrid’s characteristic dreadlocked bun on the red carpet at TIFF, alongside daughter and frequent collaborator Hallie Switzer. Or perhaps you spotted her as early as the 1990s on La Femme Nikita series. Other well-known projects include Only, Modra, i am a good person/i am bad person, The Animal Project, He Hated Pigeons and Porcupine Lake. Her newest feature film is El Mundo o Nada (The World or Nothing), a first foray into documentary in which Ingrid travels to Spain and follows twin Cuban brothers seeking fame.
I first met Ingrid via Skype nearly seven years ago. I was a baby filmmaker from the States, scanning the skies for people who were making interesting work and didn’t seem like assholes. I breathlessly asked her questions, and she overflowed with encouragement and advice: “You don’t have to wait for permission from anyone to do your art.” Since then, I’ve followed Ingrid’s creative beacon closely and been lucky enough to become friends.
Many people say that each artist stands on the shoulders of giants. But Ingrid doesn’t stand on anyone’s shoulders without offering a hand up. She has a fundamental commitment to empowering other women storytellers. Upon receiving the Jay Scott prize of $5000 in 2011, Ingrid put the money towards empowering Canadian storytellers and launched Toronto’s “1KWave”. Then she did it again while winning the EDA Award at the Whistler Film Festival in 2014, bidding others in the room to invest in six new screenplays by six Canadian women. Melissa Leo stepped up and six original scripts were nurtured through Ingrid’s pUNK FIlms FEMMES LAB. As an inaugural participant at Hedgebrook’s Screenwriters Lab on Whidbey Island, she began work on her sixth feature, Porcupine Lake, a coming-of-age relationship between two girls set in Ontario’s north.
But Ingrid also works outside the binary, collaborating and cross-fertilizing to create stories and narrative structures that have never been seen before. Born in Slovakia, and trained as a dancer in childhood, Ingrid has a unique method for making meaning and telling visual stories. The most interesting thing about Ingrid’s work is how unpredictable it is, and yet authentic. Ingrid is deeply interested in aligning her creative process with the stories she tells. She has been called the “DIY queen of Canadian filmmaking,” the Canuck version of Greta Gerwig and mumblecore royalty. To step into Ingrid’s world is an invitation to chaos. But it’s the kind of chaos that somehow makes you feel right again, more human. This is the kind of artist we need in the world. We need artists who understand that process is intimately connected to product. We need more curiosity, more generosity, more audacity, more originality. And we can trust Ingrid to show us the way.
-Bio. written by Bonnie Stinson/May 2019
Written for the Toronto Guardian