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America the Beautiful

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School Bd/College/University DVD: $350.00
K-12 Single School DVD: $175.00
Public Library (HUO) DVD: $75.00


Grade Level: SrH-Adult
Producer: Video Project
Closed Captioned: No
Running Time: 90 mins
Country of Origin: United States
Study Guide: No

Copyright Date: 2009
Available in French: No

Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to examine America’s growing obsession with physical beauty and perfection, unearthing its origins and deadly risks.

In America the Beautiful we see how increasingly unattainable images contribute to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia, and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry's largest consumers.

In almost 40,000 media messages a year, youthful Americans are being told that, unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone to love. In 2004 alone, Americans spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. America the Beautiful explores why Americans are spending so much money to cover up their discontent.

At the heart of America the Beautiful is the story of Gerren Taylor, a teenager who went from being an innocent 12 year old girl to being one of America’s next top supermodels. As she and her mother head down the windy road to stardom, viewers watch the dichotomy between Gerren's adolescent struggles and her adult “rights of passage” on the catwalks of Marc Jacobs, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger and other top designers. Her tumultuous quest acts as a mirror to the American psyche, and it becomes apparent how the same beauty that could jump-start her career could ultimately destroy her young life.

To find out what has America’s pre-teens standing in line for their turn on “I Want a Famous Face", and adults on “Extreme Makeover,” Roberts dives deep into America's culture of fear, consumption, and idolatry for all things external; he seeks answers from celebrities, media, academia, as well as everyday Americans.

America the Beautiful includes appearances by Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, Anthony Kedis of the "Red Hot Chili Peppers," Martin Short, as well as Ted Casablanca from the E! Channel and Susan Schulz, the Editor-in-Chief of CosmoGirl!, along with various other celebrities and experts in cosmetics, fashion and media.

Ultimately, the film asks: What are the true costs of our obsession with youth, beauty, and a slender physique? Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards this ideal and does it justify a nation’s psychosis?

"This is a film that deserves to be seen... (It) might rescue the lives of some girls ages 12 and up. It's about a culture saturated with the perfect, in which women are taught to seek an impossible physical ideal, and men to worship it. America the Beautiful is not shrill or alarmist, nor does it strain to shock us. Darryl Roberts, its director and narrator, speaks mostly in a pleasant, low-key voice. But the film is pulsing with barely suppressed rage, and by the end, I shared it."
- Roger Ebert, Chicago SunTimes

The current 90 minute version is R-rated due to graphic depiction of cosmetic surgery, some coarse language, and several images of scantily-clad models. All of these elements heighten the powerful realism, and humor, of this film.

A 75-minute PG version is available that also includes curricular materials. This version may be more appropriate for high school age students and younger.

Best Documentary Director, Chicago International Film Festival

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