Sunday, February 26, 2006

Movie Review: The Famine Within

Release Date: 1/90
Running Time: 0:55
Rated: NR (nudity)
Cast: Rebecca Jenkins (voice)

Director: Katherine Gilday
Producer: Katherine Gilday
Screenplay: Katherine Gilday
Music: Russell Walker
Studios: Kandor Productions Ltd., High Road Productions Ltd.


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After scraping its way through the 1990 Toronto Festival of Festivals and the Sydney Film Festival, Katherine Gilday’s The Famine Within has endured a rather bleak afterlife. Currently unavailable on any store/rental shelf and apparently only available on the Filmaker’s Library website (for a whopping purchase price of $295 and a hefty rental fee of $75), The Famine Within is a Canadian documentary that contains a mint of informing statistics that all pre and post-pubescent women should hear. However, maybe a fifty-five minute round of interviews punctuated with cheesy 80’s music and corny runway walks is not the most suitable and most influential forum to inform.

The Famine Within depicts how media advertising has created a Barbie doll stereotype to serve as an unrealistic ideal to all women. In fact, one modeling-agency executive states, that out of a group of 40,000 female applicants, only four possessed the “potential” to become a supermodel. This impractical pressure to be increasingly skinny has pressed women, sociologically and psychologically, to diet feverishly and even be driven to anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia. The film’s countless interrogations of the obese, the starved, and the qualified professionals clarify any misconceptions of this statement.

After sitting through interview upon interview – with intermittent statistics – the film’s narration simply reads like a college thesis on the subject matter. Yet, even though this thesis may appear to be well-developed, with its terse running-time, The Famine Within only scratches the surface of what could have been said.

Although, when The Famine Within has something to say, it says it without any shame or restraint. “I’d rather be dead than fat,” claims one victim of multiple eating disorders, while a Jungian psychologist asserts that the archetypal associations with a non-fit female are “passivity, ineptitude, and weakness.” The film also urges on the importance of the realizations that weighing scales should not rule a woman’s self-esteem and that body-size should not determine a woman’s worth. Additionally, what The Famine Within has to say about a woman’s natural biology is intriguing; women are made for fat storage to assist in menstruation and childbearing. Yet, ironically, even though women typically provide nourishment (through breastfeeding and/or cooking), they view their own indulgence in sustenance as sinful.

All-in-all, The Famine Within is an honest film that comes up a trifle too impassive. Hopefully, Gilday’s truncated work will serve as a muse to those inspired by the topic, and with any luck, a better resolution (than the film’s orgy shower scene) and more of a dramatic punch will result; because sadly, the issues raised by The Famine Within are just as pertinent today as they were in 1990, if not more. (**1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006