The Illusionists

Today I attended an advanced screening of the documentary “The Illusionists”.

Disclaimer: I am one of the project’s backers on Kickstarter.

I cannot put into words the importance of the work that Elena has put into this documentary. What it means for women, what it means for our society, and the overarching importance of how we view ourselves and our body’s image. The film speaks for itself, and covers this topic in a wonderful and extraordinary way. I am extremely proud of Elena and what she has produced. I can, however, talk about the discussion that took place with the panel after the screening.

This topic hits home with a lot of people, especially women, and especially the women who were in the audience. It was evident by their reaction to the film during the screening, and by their statements and question afterwards.

There was a common theme to the questions though, and that’s primarily what I would like to address. The questions, and I will paraphrase a bit, went something like this:

“Why didn’t you talk more about the issue of ageism?”
“You mentioned in the documentary the issue of skin whitening creams for black and brown people, why didn’t you address the issue of black women’s hair?”

To which Elena simply responded by stating that the documentary could only be 90 minutes long, and thus cover only a limited set of topics or aspects of the issue. Otherwise, to go deep into every aspect covered under the umbrella of consumerism, marketing, and unattainable beauty around the world would make this into a mini series spanning many long hours.

Other questions were along the lines of:

“How to fight the multi billion dollar industry that supports this deception machine?”

Elena’s response to this was simple, yet powerful and true. It goes in two folds: vote with your wallet and we all have a voice so we just have to reach out in whichever means suits us best (Twitter, Facebook, blog, email, etc) to let the brands and companies behind the products know that we do not stand for the way in which they market their products.

That is absolutely true. You will hear this over and over again, in relation to many different issues that we are facing today. Every voice matters.

I can talk forever about the documentary, the issues that inspired it, and everything surrounding it. But I would like to focus on one thing in particular. The Illusionists touches on an important and deep topic that plagues our society, but it only scratches the surface. Yet, that is, in my opinion, the job that this documentary was supposed to do. That is what Elena needed to do. The Illusionists is just the beginning of the conversation. It was meant to get us to start talking about the issue of consumerism and how it preys on the low self esteem of young people to get them to chase an unattainable ideal.

And for that, the documentary is aptly named, in a way that most people might not even realize. See, if you google the term “the illusionists” what you will get are mostly references to magicians. Ironically, that is exactly what marketers are. Marketers are magicians, who perform optical tricks to get you to buy things you do not need, with money you do not have, to impress people you do not like. A magician on a stage in Vegas uses mirrors, curtains, and distractions to sell you the illusion of a disappearance, or the beautiful assistant being cut in half. Marketers use photoshop to sell you the illusion of the ideal body. And the similarities do not stop here. Magicians do not like to tell you how they perform their tricks, because once they pull that curtain and show you how the trick works, the house of cards crumbles and the magic is removed from the act. That is what Elena has so beautifully done with her film, she has removed the curtain from behind the marketers for you to see the house of cards. It is now up to us to flick the cards on the bottom of the pyramid to watch the house of illusions crumble.

I cannot wait till the documentary is released to the public, and until I get my copy so that I can host screenings for people to watch and discuss the result of many years of Elena’s hard work.

Until then, I recommend you check out the Illusionist’s website (http://theillusionists.org/), and follow on twitter (https://twitter.com/illusionists/) (and the different platforms, all the links are available on the website) for more news.

I leave you with a great quote from the documentary:

“If all the women in the world stopped self loathing today, we would have to reshape capitalism as we know it”

UPDATE (12/23/2016): The documentary has been released and you can now buy it for only $8.99 or rent it for just $4.99 here: http://illusionists.vhx.tv/

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