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Israel, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Documentaries)

Director: Tali Shemesh

'Fat' and 'beautiful' are definitely two contradictory words in our society, where 'waif/heroin chic' ideals of beauty rule our perceptions. Miss Fat and Beautiful is a story about beauty; about being fat; about love; about shattering stereotypes; about what men are thinking; and more than anything about real big women who, like everyone else, desire their own fifteen minutes of fame. Yet, in its own paradoxical way, it is also a story that perpetuates the myth of the typical beauty contest.

Esterika Nagid, a local beauty guru and talent scout, decides to hold Miss Fat and Beautiful, a contest for the Southern Region of Israel in which 200 eligible contestants apply. The film focuses on three contestants, and through each stage of the contest we experience three real and uncompromising stories. It is at times humourous and inspiring, while at other times wholesale depressing—yet always moving and revealing. These women share their dreams, hopes, and desperate desires to obtain the shining tiara and become Miss Fat and Beautiful, convinced that their lives will be changed forever

Steering well away from typical behind-the-scenes beauty pageant peep-shows, Miss Fat and Beautiful sends shock waves through our expectations of women's bodies and how they are presented in public. Is this a legitimate rebellion against the Kate Moss formula of beauty, or does it present a side/freak show disguised as legitimate ambition? More acutely, are we laughing with, or at the contestants—so ready to reclaim the word fat' as a term of pride7 While who wins and loses on stage may be determined, it's not quite so clear off the stage

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