Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Taryn Brumfitt.
Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my body (with apologies to Stanley Kubrick).
When photographer Taryn Brumfitt had her babies she worried about the changes in her body. Brumfitt posted a before and after shot of her body on line, and was surprised at how quickly the images went viral. She also received hundreds of emails and on-line comments from women talking about the whole issue of body image. This is an issue that affects practically every woman and as Brumfitt points out, nearly 91% of all women hate their bodies. To maintain the perfect body is hard work and requires a lot of sacrifice and obsession with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Brumfitt’s documentary aims to inspire women of all ages to embrace their body with all its imperfections rather than buy into the whole obsession with beauty. Ours is a society obsessed with celebrities, and consequently a host of women’s magazine perpetuate stereotypes and promote the unrealistic ideal of a perfect figure through photoshopped images. This is, in turn, promoting an unhealthy lifestyle amongst younger woman. However, the film also addresses issues such as self-image, which is important in an era of celebrity selfies and socialk media, and plastic surgery. Brumfitt talks to Cosmopolitan editor Mia Freeman, who is critical of the images perpetuated by glossy women’s magazines.
Inspired by the many responses to her online posting and the many questions raised, Brumfitt set off on a long journey to find some answers. It was a long journey that took her around the world to Hollywood, where she met talk show host Ricki Lake, to Berlin where she met actress Nora Tschirner, and to New York where she took part in a photo shoot with noted photographer B Jeffrey Madoff and a bunch of women on different shapes and sizes. One of the strangest characters she encounters though is Harnaam Kaur, a bearded lady who talks of her struggle to find acceptance and to fit in with societal expectations. A number of inspiring individuals relate their own stories about the challenges they overcame, including burns victim Turia Pitt, who recounts her story of competing in a marathon race.
The film has been expertly assembled by editors Lindi Harrison (I Am A Girl, etc) and Bryan Mason (Sam Klemke’s Time Machine, etc), who have edited down the hours of raw footage into a reasonably fast paced and accessible documentary. However, there are still lots of moments of self indulgence when the camera turns its gaze on Brumfit and her family here that could have been cut to make it pacier and more relevant.
Embrace is as much an activist film trying to make a change in our perceptions as it is a documentary, much like Damon Gameau’s That Sugar Film from last year, although not as generally entertaining. This is a film that speaks passionately to female audiences. Brumfitt’s ultimate message is that the fashion industry itself needs to undergo a radical shift in how it addresses issues of beauty.
Embrace is the most successful crowd funded Australian documentary, and, despite its limited cinema release, will undoubtedly reach and inspire its target audience.