The AFI DOCS Interview: MINI MISS Director Rachel Daisy Ellis – American Film Institute

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The AFI DOCS Interview: MINI MISS Director Rachel Daisy Ellis

Filmed entirely from the perspective of preschoolers, MINI MISS follows five young girls competing to be crowned Mini Miss Baby Brasil. The film provides a unique insight into early childhood experiences, and children’s innate capacity for resistance in a world dominated by adult norms and desires.

AFI spoke with director/producer Rachel Daisy Ellis about the film, which plays AFI DOCS in Shorts Program 1 on Sunday, June 17. Get tickets here.

AFI: What inspired you to tell this story?

RDG: I saw a billboard in my home town, Recife, Brazil, calling three-to-five-year-olds to participate in a beauty pageant. My first child was just two years old, and was amazed that children so young would participate in beauty contests. I started to do some research and discovered that there were dozens of these pageants. I attended one pageant in Recife and discovered that children of that age interacted with the event in a very particular way, seeing it as a game and often resisting the onslaught of adult demands. This is when I decided that I wanted to do a film that focused on the children, from their perspective, excluding the adults from the frame.

AFI: What was a challenge you faced making the film?

RDG: We had very little time and had no opportunity to prep, as all of the footage was confined to the day-and-a-half of the event.  All of the little girls had microphones on, and the littlest, Maria Helena, would switch hers off constantly, which was a bit complicated!

AFI: What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?

RDG: I hope they will be impacted by the images that reveal that children of a young age have an innate capacity for resistance that involves play, fantasy and outright rebellion at times. That we create situations where children play mini-adults too early, but that they are resilient to these challenges. Events such as beauty pageants say more about society as a whole — and our inability to let children just be children — than of one particular institution or parental role.

AFI: Why is Washington, DC, a valuable location in which to screen your film?

RDG: This is the first screening of the film in Washington, and the second in the U.S. I think it will be interesting to see the reaction of people in a city where policies are made and upheld, as the film talks about how we treat young children and how we often impose adult norms on them too early.

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