Shana Myara’s Well Rounded is a powerhouse documentary, totally unique and totally inspiring. Centred around some of Canada’s most fabulous fat performers, models, comedians and writers, Myara’s documentary effectively highlights the intersectionality between fatness, queerness, and race, and how fat-phobia has become a normalised prejudice not to be taken trivially. Despite the seriousness of the subject at hand - hate, trauma, medical abuse - Well Rounded is such an exuberant documentary, where each personality interviewed shines through, loving themselves proudly, large, in-charge, not taking any sh*t from anyone. After all, ‘Who the hell wants to fade into the background?’
Well Rounded shares its attitude with another film featuring in the BFI Flare Film Festival, Cured (dir. Bennett Singer and Patrick Sammon). Looking at the way queer people historically challenged the medical establishment who once considered them sick, Cured emphasised how in order to reach a breakthrough in queer rights, medical stigma had to be debunked and queer people needed to start defining themselves for themselves. Similarly, Well Rounded highlights the rampant fat-phobia upheld by medics and public health campaigners - not to mention the queer community itself, still obsessed with beauty standards. Having to fight off public pressure to see themselves as unhealthy, as failed bodies, the artists and models and writers in the documentary are using the resistance strategies of civil rights pioneers to challenge stigma, to define their own bodies and their own self-worth.
Beauty standards, as Ivory (a cabaret artist) notes, are so tightly connected to capitalism and patriarchy. By making people (especially women) insecure about their appearances, businesses can profit - if everyone loved themselves for who they were, businesses would go bankrupt over night. And when beauty standards are framed in such a light, when internet haters leave comments like ‘Have fun dying’, then issues regarding fatness and discrimination are not simply a side-note, rather they’re a key concern of social justice. Disproving any correlation between dieting and health, the interviewees in Myara’s documentary are healthy, self-loving and beautiful.
The documentary is also stunningly crafted; energetic, sassy, and interweaved with the playful and slick animation of Alexandra Hohner. Well Rounded deserves attention from both mainstream and subcultural audiences alike, because neither have done enough work to challenge fat-phobia. In a society where we casually take out our own insecurities on other people, Myara’s documentary encourages us to love ourselves, to care for each other, no matter who we are, our shape or form.