This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Bite Me! Toronto International Body Image Film and Arts Festival, at which I saw six of the nine films being shown.
Killing Us Softly 4 - Jean Kilbourne
As the title suggests, this was the fourth edition of this film, which was first released in 1979. Jean Kilbourne presents a number of advertising images and campaigns and argues that much of the representation of women in advertising not only devalues and dehumanizes women, but also glorifies violence against women, both directly and indirectly. The film is presented in a lecture format, featuring Kilbourne at a podium speaking to a teenaged audience. Recommended: much of the discussion around the impossible beauty ideal in advertising is old hat, but the focus on the glorification of violence is an important angle.
The Story of Furious Pete – George Tsioutsioulas, Igal Hecht
“Furious Pete” is a man who was hospitalized for anorexia at the age of 16, recovered, and has become a champion competitive eater. It’s an interesting and unusual story and perspective. Pete explains his anorexia as stemming from needing to exert some control over his life when both his parents were very ill, not due to any pressures regarding his body image. The film is a documentary focusing on his winning career and charity work.
It’s interesting that Pete has now become, as well as a competitive eater, a fairly hardcore athlete and body builder. The film doesn’t discuss it, but I found it very interesting that after his recovery from anorexia, he now has an idealized male body type: huge biceps, narrow waist, strong musculature. I also wonder whether his competitive eating career draws on some of the same characteristics that were once brought out by his anorexia: control over food, perfectionism, competitiveness, rules around eating.
Ebony Chunky Love, B*itch Can’t Get a Date! – Lonnie Tristan Renteria
(The bleeping of the word “bitch” in the title is the director’s choice, not mine.)
NYC-based stand-up comic and Sirius OUT Q radio personality Keith Price discusses black, gay, fat masculinity in terms of dating, family and career. Recommended: his comedic strategy for talking about important intersectional issues is pretty awesome, and sometimes belies the serious questioning and soul-searching he demands of his listeners and viewers.
The Guarantee; 34x25x36 – Jesse Epstein
In the first short film, an Italian actor has a nose job on the recommendation of colleagues; he requests only a minor adjustment and no one really notices. Not sure what the message is.
The second features the process of mannequin production and is highly recommended: it disturbed and horrified me in a very good, thought-provoking and kick-in-the-ass way. However, I would definitely place a trigger warning on this film. The imagery of disembodied parts strewn about, sometimes hanging – mannequins and mannequin parts referred to as “she” – and the line “there is no such thing as a perfect body. We decide what is the perfect body, and we made it” … shivers, and not the good kind.
65_REDROSES – Nimisha Mukerji, Philip Lyall
A Canadian documentary follows 23-year-old Eva Markvoort as she waits for a double lung transplant to help her to survive with Cystic Fibrosis. The film is touching, inspiring, sad, hopeful, and tragic: all the highs and lows. The film was included in Bite Me! to encourage thinking around healthy and unhealthy bodies, ability and disability. So much of our self-identities is wrapped up in our experiences in our bodies, and the currently able-bodied can so easily take health for granted. Recommended, as is her blog (linked).
A Question of Beauty – Colleen Furlotte
Please stay tuned; there’s too much to say about this film in this short segment, and I’d like to start a discussion about some of the issues.