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High on Heels documentary film review


Directed by: #AdelinGasana

Written by: Adelin Gasana and #LolaKayode

An illustrated poster depicting a pair of legs wearing bright red heels pointing upwards against a backdrop of New York City

“I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?”

I think about that quote from Shawshank Redemption every once in a while, its a great moment that reveals the hidden details right in front of us but also how it reflects on how little I care about the quality of my footwear. I usually wear my worn-out sneakers or my worn-out boots, they’re both scuffed and I won’t replace them until the soles have worn off cause the duct tape just ain’t cutting it no more. For me, it doesn’t matter how my shoes look cause who’s really looking? No one, cause usually we’re looking at a different pair of shoes. High on Heels, this jam-packed and informative documentary short from Adelin Gasana and Lola Kayode asks this question from the female perspective, and the answer, of course, is - a lot

Gasana and Kayode cast a wide net in their research and examination of modern culture’s relationship with high heel footwear and how it has branched into many facets of our society. Dozens of interviews with fashion designers, dancers, models, doctors, and academics, combined with a variety of access has the audience tuned in to the conscious and subconscious influence of the high heel. You definitely leave the film having learned a lot, my favourite section was historian Lisa Small’s lecture on how high heels transformed from a practical accessory for Persian cavalrymen to a symbol of aristocracy in 17th century France and evolving into a contemporary sex symbol for women. No stone feels unturned but the film maintains a positive outlook throughout mainly focusing on the empowerment heels can provide for women. It’s about how the heel can be an expression of one’s self and how these different environments can all be seen through a positive outlook. 

High on Heels doesn’t condemn certain viewpoints or try and shame, it does highlight gender differences in how heels are seen as a “sacrifice for beauty”, doctors speak of pain and injuries that come with wearing heels but it all feels educational. The impact on the youth is also explored with insights into modelling classes, toy lines, and how efforts are being made to change the perception of the high heel stereotype. Its no longer about the sexualisation of women for a man’s world but rather an instrument for their own identity in whatever way that woman wishes to be seen, sexual or otherwise. That initial impression you have on this topic going in is quickly shattered by how the film engrosses the audience with its variety of information, despite the lack of debate within the film it’s successful it creating an interest in the topic beyond the viewing. 

The documentary doesn’t have a specific narrative, more of a sporadic structure moving from tangent to tangent, giving the audience a broad understanding of all these perspectives. It can be a little distracting in how the topics change and Gasana and Kayode don’t find a way to tie all of their threads together for a thematic resolution but the entertainment and educational factor doesn’t fade. There are some minor technical issues with presentation and audio but High on Heels remains constantly engaging and well-paced, a terrific forum of opinions no matter your knowledge on women’s shoes.


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