An illusion typically created by retouching

Let’s start with a couple of facts: according to the British Journal of Psychology, nowadays half of all 3 to 6 year old girls worry about being fat. These children can look forward to growing up and being part of the 90% of women who overestimate their body weight. These facts have another significance – they are two of thirty reasons filmmaker Elena Rossini has cited as the motivations for making her forthcoming feature documentary, The Illusionists.

So what is The Illusionists about? In Elena’s own words: “The Illusionists will trace the evolution of beauty ideals through the centuries and will examine the economic motives behind the marketing of unattainable beauty. Through advertising and mass media, multibillion-dollar industries (most notably cosmetics, fashion, dieting and cosmetic surgery) saturate our lives with images of idealized, unattainable beauty, of an “Official Body” that does not exist in nature and that can be obtained only through cosmetic surgery – or digital retouching. The Illusionists will explore the influence that corporations have on body image, showing how mass media, advertising and several other industries manipulate people’s insecurities about their bodies for profit.”

It’s a massively important subject, and it makes you wonder why it hasn’t been the topic of a high profile documentary before. But when you think about its potential to rock the media world, suddenly things become clearer. In fact, Elena originally pursued the more traditional funding channels to try and get the documentary made, but many broadcasters and other media bodies seemed a little too afraid to risk ruffling the feathers of other media players… She therefore made the decision to turn to crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where individuals are encouraged to make donations based on the merit of the project. In this way, Elena can be sure that the people funding the project are 100% behind it, while she retains all creative control and is not subject to censorship. The movie’s style will be similar to recent documentaries like Inside Job, Food, Inc, and The Corporation. The ultimate goal is for the documentary to become an educational tool, making viewers empowered consumers of media.

The support is coming in thick and fast – after just two weeks, Elena has raised just over half of the $33,000 she needs to get the film going. At the time of writing, 152 backers have pledged $17,139 between them, with contributions at every level from the minimum $10 right through to the $5000+ bracket. As well as the satisfaction in knowing that they are supporting a great cause, all donors receive a gift in exchange for their contribution: examples include a special edition DVD and coffee table book all the way through to an associate producer credit on the film.

The project’s merit is not only validated by financial support, but also by the impressive list of esteemed experts who have agreed to interviews for the film: author & filmmaker Jean Kilbourne (best known for her iconic film series “Killing Us Softly”), psychotherapist Susie Orbach (best known for her books “Fat is a Feminist Issue” and “Bodies”) and Jenn Pozner(author of “Reality Bites Back”), amongst others.

Italian-born filmmaker Elena Rossini

Elena Rossini’s credentials for tackling the subject are unquestionable. An Italian-born director, cinematographer and editor, she completed her university-level education in Boston. She wrote, produced and directed her debut fictional feature film, ‘Dove sei tu’, at the age of 25. Since then she has been involved in many projects related to the subject of The Illusionists, such as the short documentary, “Ideal Women”, commissioned by the Louvre museum and ARTE Web, which juxtaposed beauty ideals in the art world versus the mass media arena.

In addition to her film work, Rossini created No Country for Young Women, an ongoing multimedia project striving to connect women across generations and nationalities on the topic of their careers.

The future for The Illusionists looks very bright, but nothing is guaranteed. If Elena doesn’t reach the $33,000 funding target on Kickstarter, she receives nothing – this is a condition of the site. If you think you have $10 or more to spare, Running in Heels highly recommends supporting this campaign. After all, to conclude with number 30 of Elena’s 30 reasons why she is making this film:

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

For more information, see The Illusionists’ Kickstarter page or website. You can also follow The Illusionists on Twitter and Facebook.

The Illusionists: a feature-length documentary about the commodification of the body and the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world