There She Is (2012) - Rao, Sheskin
My wife Nicole is a muralist and a High School teacher. When she lead an Afterschool mural project last Summer with a team of High School girls, the subject they chose was the theme of "Women as International Community." It resulted in a spectacular mural in Downtown Brooklyn. The mural contains many prominent (and not so well known) female figures around the world - Aung San Suu Kyi, King Peggy and Comadres of El Salvador among them. But when Nicole first approached the girls with the subject and trying to include their concerns as a young women living in the US, she found out that their number one concern was body image, which ended up represented in the middle of the mural (in one of the raindrops- mirror and the Venus of Willendorf).
It is no secret that today's youths are bombarded day and night with images everywhere of how they are supposed to look, when in fact, the average size of the US women is 14 - 16. Then how does the average woman cope with the pressure of being perceived as abnormal and slovenly even though they are statistically average? A revealing short documentary There She Is delves into this seldom talked about topic: body image. The film follows two best friends, Alison Kopach and Jenny Flores as they prepare for entering the American Beauties Plus Pageant where 22 plus size women compete for the 'Elite' title. For Kopach and Flores, the pageant is that special day they feel like somebody. It's their empowerment tool. But how do they deal with it the rest of the year?
Thanks to Veena Rao and Emily Sheskin's deft direction, There She Is digs much deeper than your run-of-the-mill reality TV show. It presents an honest assessment of inner-conflict of these contestants as they continue to struggle with self-acceptance long after the pageant is over and the camera's turned off. As Kopach says in the film, she has to rev up her appearance everyday to feel good about herself, while Flores has to deal with her boyfriend and his family's prejudices about dating a 'big' woman.
Shouldn't we all have the right to feel beautiful? Why is self-acceptance so difficult? The film asks the audience to ponder about the impossible standard of beauty women are subjected to and how it warps many of their perspectives on life. I think this short film has a lot to say in its 20 minute run time and I hope Rao and Sheskin explore the subject further in the future because what we have here is a very potent, thought provoking documentary.
Please visit the film's website for more info: www.pageantdocumentary.com