"MISS REPRESENTATION," documentary about the media's portrayal of women; not rated but probably R (language and graphic sexual images, including nudity); Sundance Film Festival
PARK CITY — Watching "Miss Representation" is much like eating condensed soup straight from the can.
There is nothing watered down about it.
Yet, "Miss Representation," screened Jan. 22 at the Sundance Film Festival, carries a powerful message. With myriad video clips portraying women in a highly charged sexual manner, juxtaposed with women of historical significance, the viewer becomes acutely aware of how media plays an enormous role in how a girl views herself.
And that media is everywhere in the form of television, Internet, magazines and movies.
First-time director Jennifer Siebel Newsom boldly tells her own story in the first few minutes of the film. It's one riddled with tragedy, eating disorders, loss of self worth and years of soul searching. Pregnant with her first child during the production of the film, she recalls how horrified she was at the thought of raising her daughter in a culture that degrades and disrespects women on a regular basis.
Newsom's purpose is to show young girls that their value goes beyond beauty and youth, and to spark a determination within all women to gain more leadership roles. In doing so, however, "Miss Representation" features strong language, nudity and sexual images that are graphic and disturbing.
The film features interviews with Geena Davis, Gloria Steinem, Pat Mitchell, Daphne Zuniga, Nancy Pelosi, Lisa Ling, Condoleezza Rice and Katie Couric. Teenager Devanshi Patel provides a fresh voice for the film. She speaks eloquently, is poised and direct, and wants to be known for "being smart," not "being smart — for a girl."
The interview with Zuniga is one of the most moving. The former "Melrose Place" actress was told that in order to land her next TV role, she would need to have "a little work done" on her face. She went in for Botox injections, given by a man whom she describes as "fat and bald," and realizes in that moment — with tears rolling down her face — how unfairly the media treats women. She pledged never again to have another needle injected in her face, even if it means not getting the job.
Three times during the screening, an audible "wow" could be heard from the crowd as statistics, quotes, video clips and images flashed on the screen — all depicting the demise of women through the media.
A firm call to action comes near the end of the film, but would have been better served had it been more prominently discussed throughout.
Gone are the days of the Federal Communications Commission allowing only family friendly television programs to air before 7 p.m. Here are the days where E! Entertainment News and Access Hollywood provide girls with a constant stream of perfect images.
"Miss Representation" presents an honest, and at times uncomfortable, truth of how media rule the perception of women. This film peels away the layers and digs into how we can start to change by turning off negative media, becoming mentors for young girls, and teaching young women to dream bigger and think higher.