Body hair, ballet: Films explore 2 different worlds
by Davia L. Mosley
dmosley@mdjonline.com
May 22, 2012 12:01 AM | 1093 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
‘Mansome,’ directed by Morgan Spurlock, is a film about the subjectivity of masculinity. <br>Special
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“Mansome”

(Documentary, PG-13, 84 minutes)

From bald heads to Afros, from clean-shaven faces to long beards, from muscular frames to potbellies — men come in all shapes, sizes and more. But what is the standard? Or is there?

Will Arnett and Jason Bateman serve as executive producers of “Mansome,” a documentary on masculinity in relation to physical appearance. Men of all ages and backgrounds are profiled, ranging from professional wrestlers, businessmen and men in the entertainment industry such as actors Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis, musicians Scott Ian and ZZ Top, and directors Jon Waters and Judd Apatow.

Women have long been victims of insecurities based on advertising. Now, men have their turn to voice their concerns, opinions and fears on the same issue. Arnett and Bateman appear throughout the project, discussing what it means to be a man while they spend the day getting massages, facials, pedicures and more. Clever.

Hair is prevalent throughout “Mansome,” starting with that of the face. Morgan Spurlock, the man behind films such as “Super Size Me,” directed the project. He has maintained a “handlebar” moustache for more than 10 years, but shaved it as part of a collaboration with “Movember.” During this time, men forgo shaving to raise awareness about prostate cancer. Although Spurlock shrugged off losing his facial hair — quickly acknowledging that it will grow right back – his small son bawled when he realized his dad’s face had changed.

Like the Biblical story of Sampson, some of the men in the film equated hair with power and emotion. It’s serious matter — more so for some than others.

For example, Jack Passion competes in beard contests. He trains like an athlete. Daily exercise, watching his diet and taking vitamins are among his regimen to keep his fiery red beard long and strong. Shawn Daivari, a professional wrestler, has to get help from male friends to shave his entire body. Their hair is their livelihood.

Just as beauty salons are part of a woman’s intro into femininity and beauty, barbershops serve a similar purpose for men. Shops from New York to Las Vegas are featured. Although the cuts range from $15 to more than $200, the camaraderie is still the same.

“Mansome” is balanced in that it explores aesthetics and the psychology behind it, along with some humor and a wide range of opinions. Anthropologists and historians also give an educational background into the history of masculinity and how it translates today.

In a documentary about men, women are prevalent and their opinions influence how a man perceives and carries himself. However, one man admits men need validation from each other. Even with the differences in how men and women think in some areas, this film shows there is a thin line with others.

“Mansome” was released May 18 and is playing at The Tara (2345 Cheshire Bridge Road NE, Atlanta).

“First Position”

(Documentary, NR, 94 minutes)

If dance is any part of your life, “First Position” should be next on your go-see list. This in-depth film highlights a group of ballet dancers from different parts of the world as they compete in the Youth America Grand Prix. This competition is a venue for younger dancers to get noticed and for older dancers to get scholarships and offers with companies worldwide.

Some may want to argue that dance is not a sport, but after watching this, I can promise you will disagree. The lengths these young people go through to perfect their craft is just as strenuous, if not more, than a professional athlete. Their bodies bend in ways that will astound you. Their flexibility is unbelievable — and so are their physical sacrifices.

Weight is an issue for some. Others have feet so scarred they are hard to the touch. Blisters, calluses and scars lie below expensive ballet shoes. However, they dance through it. In some cases, their burdens surpass their physical ability.

Aran, 11, is an only child who bounces from country to country because his father is in the military. He doesn’t have many friends but he doesn’t mind. He loves ballet and he’s not embarrassed by it.

Michaela was adopted from Sierra Leone. She witnessed her teacher being mutilated during the country’s Civil War. She is a chocolate-complexioned young lady whose skin is slightly discolored because of vitiligo. She doesn’t let it bother her. Her biggest hurdle as a dancer of color is combating racial stereotypes of what it means to be a ballerina.

Miko, 12, is an overachiever. Her brother, Jules, 11, could be on the same level as his sister but would rather play outside with his friends.

Joan Sebastian lives in New York but comes from Colombia. His family continues to live in poverty, so he works to become a successful dancer so he can support them financially.

Rebecca, 17, is a cheerleader. Her room, car and Tiffany’s charm bracelet all have a princess theme. These six young people are among thousands that travel to New York to compete. The results on stage will be life changing.

Their athleticism, sacrifices and tenacity all made for an exhilarating film. Just like people cheer for their favorite sports teams, you will cheer for these dancers.

What some of them experience might be shocking, physically, financially and emotionally. After a performance, they seem as if they will collapse at any moment as they struggle to catch their breath. Some even dance through excruciating pain. Tutus can cost upwards of $2,500 and ballet slippers, $80 — both garments that get worn out easily and are in need of constant replacing. Early morning and late-night practices take the place of hanging out with friends. Some are even forced to be home schooled because of the demands of dance. There is even some dialogue on masculinity as some of the male dancers struggle with teasing from others.

“First Position” is more than just a movie about ballet and is well worth viewing. The film opened May 18 and is showing exclusively at Midtown Arts Cinema (931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta).
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