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THE FAMINE WITHIN

Canada, 1990 (MIFF 1991, Documentaries)

Director: Katherine Gilday

The Superwoman - her image is everywhere. She is there on billboards, in magazines, she flows through television and film. She is ever present in our imaginations. This 5'10", 35-24-35 mirage, with drop dead good looks and legs that go on forever, is the latest corporate incarnation of the female ideal to confound women as they enter and transform the patriarchal structures around them.

In her impressive documentary debut, Katherine Gilday focuses on this debilitating ideal and the devastating effect it is having on the health and morale of woman, particularly younger women in North America.

Largely created by the fashion industry, transmitted through the media, fuelled by a multi-billion dollar diet industry and exacerbated by the current mania for fitness, this body-centred ideal results in an ever increasing number of young women developing harmful eating disorders. In their obsessive quest for the perfect body, women become anorexic, bulimic, or diet their way into obesity.

Using conventional documentary interviews and narration, complemented with striking and evocative imagery, Gilday presents a wide cross section of women relating their own experiences with these disturbing conditions. Intercut with these testimonials are new and insightful analyses by feminist writers and activists who locate this phenomenon within our social context. Among many of the perceptive observations in this film, it is suggested that these disorders are a desperate, if unconscious, protest against the denial of the feminine within both men and women.

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