About the Producers

Marianna Yarovskaya:  Director Marianna Yarovskaya has over 18 years of experience working as a documentary filmmaker focusing on ecology, history, political and social issues, including researching shamans and Shamanism and during the total solar eclipse in the Altai region of Russia at the end of 2008.  She field produced the China and Russia portions of Countdown to Zero, a film about the state of nuclear weapons.  She was the Head of Research the documentary starring Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth (2006 Academy Award, 2006 Nobel Prize for Al Gore).

For the segment of the film shot in China, Marianna already has a working relationship with such NGOs as the Nature Conservancy and the Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge (CBIK).  These groups continue to sponsor participatory video projects in rural regions.

Additionally, while living in Paris in 2008, Marianna helped to produce the Panorama du Cinéma Chinois de Paris.  In that capacity, she helped select contemporary Chinese films and ten classical Chinese opera films to screen at the Max Linder Theater in Paris.  She is also a Fulbright candidate for the 2010 US People’s Republic of China Award to write a script about Dongba shamans in Yunnan province (letter attached).

Marianna has produced films for National Geographic, the History Channel, Discovery Channel, NASA and Greenpeace USA.  She spent three years doing videos and interviewing scientists at NASA, and three years making films for National Geographic.  While carrying out this work, she traveled extensively and learned to do research independently.

In 2008, Marianna and her co-producer, Olesya Bondareva, traveled to the Altai region of Russia with a small Prosumer camera to document the rehabilitation of Shamanism in the post-Soviet era.  They filmed practicioners of Burkhanism (“white shamans”) in the village of Kyrkyk.  There they felt the necessity to broaden their documentation. 

Other films by Marianna Yarovskaya:

Undesirables: Total Run Time 23 min, DVCAM

Undesirables is a documentary following the lives of runaway teenagers in Russia.  Produced in the year 2000, the film received a Student Academy Award and a College Emmy Award, and was screened in Cannes.  Now, ten years later, the same team of filmmakers – Marianna Yarovskaya, Olesya Bondareva, Bryan Donnell, and Arthur Yee – join efforts to follow the shamans of the world and ask them important questions about the shamans themselves and the changing world.

Holy Warriors: Total Run Time 33 min, DVCAM

Yarovskaya and Bondareva started addressing issues of spirituality, war and religion in today’s society in their next film, Holy Warriors.  The documentary studies five former Russian soldiers who fought in wars from Afghanistan to Chechnya and found spirituality as a result.  It chronicles the spiritual upheaval brought about by war, offering profound insight into the resilience of the human spirit during trying times.  It demonstrates the traumatic effect of enlisting unwilling soldiers while raising questions about the links between war and religion in the modern world.  One character in the film, a former army sniper who became a priest, puts it best: "There are no atheists in a foxhole.”  Holy Warriors screened in 25 countries worldwide.


Director of Photography - Bryan Donnell

Won the Emmy Award for "Outstanding Cinematography in Reality Programming" for A&E's Intervention.  DP for a documentary produced by Participant Media and Lawrence Bender, the producers of An Inconvenient Truth, and directed by Lucy Walker (Blindsight, The Devil's Playground).  DP for The Elders, a documentary for Richard Branson’ Virgin Unite about The Elders, a small alliance of diplomats including Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. DP for Ghost Hunters International, the popular SciFi/SyFy series about haunted castles around the world.  DP for Made in LA, Emmy-award winning film about sweatshops in Los Angeles, California.  Numerous materials for DVDs such as The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Hairspray, and re-release versions of LA Confidential, Friday, Set It Off, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Currently shooting an HBO documentary in Dubai following a group of kids from around the world for the International Quran memorization competition.

Arthur Yee - Cinematographer

Arthur Yee started December Pictures in 1999 to help independent producers shed light to their projects.  He was inspired by the power of documentaries after being a subject in a PBS Frontline documentary.  Now with 15 years of worldwide production experience working for a wide range of projects for National Geographic, PBS, Discovery, A&E, TLC, NBC, FOX, many corporate and nonprofit clients.  Arthur brings sensitivity and a creative passion to every shoot and uncompromising quality to every project.

Yana Gorskaya - Editor

Gorskaya's documentary credits include the much acclaimed Spellbound (2003 Academy Award Nomination, Sundance Festival official selection), which follows eight children on their way to the National Spelling Bee, and In the Name of Love, an exploration of Russian marriage agencies executive produced by Sydney Pollack (for the Discovery Channel).  She also edited Sonny Boy, a documentary about Virgil Frye, character actor, civil rights activist and Golden Gloves Boxing champion.  She also edited the feature Rocket Science (Sundance official selection 2004).  She received her B.A. from Columbia University and her MFA from USC, both with numerous honors.

Researcher in Russia - Alex Kandaurov

Considered the top researcher in Russia for the past 20 years, Kandaurov has done award winning work for all the major US studios.  He is distinguished for his access to rare footage and photographs from all over Russia.

Location Manager in China

Zhang Xu is a producer/director for the Beijing Television Arts Center and president of the Beijing Association of Dongba Culture and Arts.  In 1990 she conducted several investigations in the Lijiang area, interviewed Dongba priests and documented various religious ceremonies.  She has produced a number of nationally and internationally acclaimed documentaries.  She has lectured at Beijing University, Qinghua University and other cultural societies on Dongba culture, and held exhibitions of contemporary Na-xi paintings in China and Germany.

Beijing Association of Dongba Culture and Arts (ADCA)

ADCA is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping preserve the ancient Dongba heritage of China, and to actively promoting the understanding of Dongba culture, arts and traditions.  It has received national and international acclaim for its exhibitions of rare cultural artifacts, photos, documentaries and artwork.  With the gradual waning of traditional Dongba influences, the ADCA represents a significant step to reverse a process of loss.

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