Saturday, September 29, 2012


On the first full day of the festival I arrived a bit late - missed the morning films. I hadn’t slept well, but had found the time to write that first blog entry on the fest. I looked at the board to see what was playing that might be of interest and luck of the draw was a pair of 45 minute docs from Vice (some TV documentary program that is one of the fest’s sponsors) - one on a Scottish Wrestler and one of Jamaica Fashion Week. I thought both would be a snooze, but instead they were fascinating.

The Wrestling movie was about the Scottish Wrestling scene - they have started their own version of WWE, but kind of a throwback to the 80s version. Very character and story oriented - with heroes and villains and comic relief wrestlers. Lots of costumes and special moves that may be against the rules. The doc focuses on a guy who is a bartender 5 nights a week... and a wrestler on the weekends. He becomes the champion over the course of the doc. He’s this great guy - funny and wrestling because he loves it (not much money to be made in Scottish Wrestling at this point). He starts out as a comic relief character and because he’s an underdog eventually gets his shot at wrestling the champion. After the film the wrestler, the head of the Scottish Wrestling organization, and a couple of others showed up for Q&A. They were great. It was really a doc about chasing your dreams - even if they’re a bit silly.

The fashion week doc... was *not* about fashion week! They used fashion week in Jamaica as the background to look at fashion in that country - and specifically the use of illegal *skin bleaching* and the use of poultry growth hormone drugs in the slums to become more attractive... and maybe find a wealthy boyfriend. These women mix cleaning bleach and hand cream, put it on their bodies (including faces) and wrap them in plastic wrap so that the bleach *burns* their pigmentation off. It’s frightening. The result is also scary - because instead of looking lighter skinned, the women look ill. Deathly pale. The “chicken pills” are bought underground and taken to increase the butt and breast size (plumping them like a chicken’s breasts) - and often the pills they buy are something else entirely. They do all of these things to be more attractive... but it’s really frightening. They show a woman who is burned and disfigured due to the bleaching. All of this is going on in the slums while there’s a fashion show downtown. Afterwards the host of the documentary (who looks like an ex fashion model) talked about the experience and how these women damage their bodies to look beautiful. What I thought was interesting is that she didn’t think there was a correlation between the bleaching of skin and the dangers of skin cancer from tanning skin to look beautiful. I think it’s frightening the way people want to alter their bodies to chase some concept of beauty.

- Bill

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