Posted by: kierstin1220 | March 30, 2009

Documentaries Shed Light on Body Image Problems

Finally, a different  type of conversation about body imagine -and it is having some positive repercussions.

While still a film student at New York University, Jesse Epstein composed a short documentary about body image and Photoshop that won her the Sundance Online Jury Award in 2004, according to Filmmaker magazine. To date she has filmed three short documentaries about America’s jaded relationship with body image – Wet Dreams and False Images, 34x25x36 and The Guarantee– and she is currently working on one about skin color.

Epstein contributes her interest in body image to the two years she lived in Africa, according to the Divine Caroline Web site.

When I came to the U.S. I was a preteen, so I was really confused because in Africa there was a certain way for people to look. Women wanted to be big and strong, but here all my friends wanted to be skinny, so it was very confusing. Epstein, according to the Divine Caroline Web site

Epstein began working on documentary shorts that could be shown in the classroom to expose students to the deceiving practices of the media when it comes to pictures and illustrations.

The main goal was I wanted to make a film about body image, not just about eating disorders. I think it’s easy to just talk about extreme cases, but I think this [body image] affects everybody. I’m trying to figure out new ways of discussing these issues. I want to make a series of shorts that can be used by teachers in classrooms so they can start discussions. They’re meant to just raise questions because I don’t have the answers. Epstein, according to the Divine Caroline Web site

Her first documentary short, Wet Dreams and False Images, focuses on Dee Dee a barber and what his belief that what is found in magazines is true beauty. It also incorporates interviews from actual photograph retouchers and the goals they have when retouching a picture. What I found most surprising is that they admit this practice contributes to eating disorders. Here’s the trailer for the documentary.

Although I haven’t watched Wet Dreams and False Images in its entirety, I find Epstein’s other documentary 34x25x36 much more startling. This documentary sheds some light on the mannequin industry and the power the men who run these factories have. I would classify it as almost sick.

Epstein’s documentary series doesn’t focus exclusively on the media’s objectification of women, however. She also has produced a short about a young man recounting his experiences as a ballet dancer and his decision to have plastic surgery.

All of Epstein’s work does a great job of compiling the information in such a way that it stimulates interest in the topic. Instead of throwing countless meaningless facts at her audience, Epstein allows the subjects of her pieces to narrate for her.

I could have made a film that was all about using experts, but I did a lot of reading and thinking about philosophy and decided to use the characters who are involved in the issue instead of talking heads. That’s why I like doing them short, because I put a lot of time and effort into each one. The question is how can you embed the message in something that seems like fiction, because that’s the only thing that can reach a mainstream audience. Epstein, according to the Divine Caroline Web site.

Look for Epstein’s longer documentary that will be out soon about body image that includes all of her shorts that have been discussed here.



  1. Thanks for writing about the film project. And for your blog.


  2. Wow…nice comment left for you!

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