By Sharon Haywood, Co-Editor
“To men a man is but a mind. Who cares what face he carries or what he wears? But a woman’s body is the woman.” Filmmaker Elena Rossini cites this quote from writer Ambrose Bierce as her third reason out of 30 for creating The Illusionists, a full-length documentary about how the body has been transformed into the “finest” consumer object worldwide. As www.theillusionists.org explains, author Germaine Greer referred to women as illusionists “as they ‘fake the roses in their cheeks, the thickness, color and curliness of their hair, the tininess of their waists, the longness of their legs and the size and shape of their breasts.’” But the real illusionists—the beauty industry and mass media—are exposed in Rossini’s documentary as the culprits who unscrupulously sell unattainable beauty:
“They create, shape and maintain our shared beliefs, values, and rules, promoting aspirational ideals of female beauty that are very difficult – if not impossible – to achieve, in order to create new needs and apprehensions that fuel a 500 billion dollar industry.”
Rossini and her team have set up a fundraising campaign that needs your backing. They have chosen Kickstarter, an incredible online fundraising platform that provides creative projects the opportunity to reach out to like-minded folks like you for support. The ask? $33,000 in 43 days. At the time of writing this, $16,000 has been donated and 29 days remain. An amazing amount of money in two weeks. But Kickstarter has a catch—the project abides by an “all-or-nothing funding method.” In other words, if the project fails to reach 100% of its funding goal by August 5th, all pledges will be lost.
With footage from around the world, including Europe, the United States, India, and East Asia The Illusionists will present a truly global close-up at “how mass media, advertising and several industries manipulate people’s insecurities about their bodies for profit.” The film’s list of experts is impressive: Psychotherapist and author of 11 books, including Fat is a Feminist Issue and her latest, Bodies, Susie Orbach; author and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne, most recognized for her groundbreaking film series about women and advertising, Killing Us Softly; and the founder of Women in Media & News and author of Reality Bites Back, Jennifer Pozner. Plans are in the works to interview others, such as the famed writer and philosopher Umberto Eco and the controversial photographer, Oliviero Toscani well known for his multi-racial Benetton ads. What’s more the film will also include testimony from advertising executives, magazine editors, scientists, historians, and sociologists.
I can think of a few more solid reasons why we need to see The Illusionists: it will act as an invaluable educational resource “making viewers more empowered consumers of media,” provide people with a tool to help them reject the self-esteem crushing messages from marketers, and it might even act as a catalyst for change in how women are represented in the media. But none of that can happen without your support. Rossini explains that,
“there is a lot of censorship surrounding these issues. Funding the film independently, through people’s donations, is the only way we can be completely candid about these topics, without interference from media companies.”
That’s where you come in. With only 29 days and $17,000 to go, Rossini and her team are relying on you. The last but definitely not the least important reason Rossini has chosen to make (and fund) The Illusionists is number 30 on her list: “Because I feel inspired by this quote by Margaret Mead: ‘A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’” Be part of the change. Extend your support and help the Illusionists team meet its goal. The repercussions are bound to be long lasting.
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Visit The Illusionists Kickstarter campaign to make your pledge (which also comes with cool rewards like a DVD of film).
More about the filmmaker: Rossini’s previous work is outstanding. At just 25, she wrote, produced, and directed the full-feature narrative fiction film, Dove Sei Tu. She was also commissioned by the Louvre museum and ARTE Web to create the powerful short documentary, Ideal Beauty in which she compares and contrasts how beauty has been expressed via art with mass media’s current version of the physical ideal. More recently, notable projects include being the cinematographer for Three Days to See (director Garrett Zevgetis) and filming Lili’s Journey, in which she interviewed the Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan.