Body image – how we view our physical appearance – has always been an issue, particularly during adolescence when physical changes affect how we see ourselves.

Widespread sharing of photos on social media, comments from peers, and the prevalence of air-brushed celebrity images have added to the feelings of insecurity young people of both sexes experience around body image.

This can impact negatively on their self esteem, in some cases leading to more severe problems such as eating disorders and self-harm. 

Film is an excellent vehicle to start a conversation about this important subject. Into Film has a wide choice of relevant titles in its catalogue, from those which take a humorous approach like Shrek (U), Napoleon Dynamite (PG) and The Full Monty (15), to dramas such as Precious (15) and My Skinny Sister (15), biopic Frida (15) (about artist Frida Kahlo’s relationship with her injured body), and thought-provoking documentaries including Murderball (15) and Girl Model.

The charity also offers a ‘Body Image on Screen’ teaching resource and associated PowerPoint presentation with embedded film clips to encourage deeper exploration of selected films and themes within them in class or a school film club. 

In addition Into Film is supporting Boys’ Biggest Conversation – a campaign to encourage young men to talk about body image and its effect on mental wellbeing.

Into Film puts film at the heart of young people’s learning and personal development. Its UK-wide programme offers free access to thousands of films and teaching resources, guidance for filmmaking and reviewing, training and CPD for teachers, the world’s largest free youth film festival and annual awards.

For information or to start a free Into Film Club visit intofilm.org.

INTO FILM RECOMMENDS

Milo (2012, 12)

This gripping Dutch film centres on a ten-year-old boy called Milo who lives an isolated life that’s rigidly controlled by his overbearing father.

When he’s denied parental permission to go on the school camping trip despite his kindly granddad having paid the fee, he runs away, falling into the company of an ageing criminal couple who grant him much more freedom.

However, things are not quite as they seem, as lessons are learnt by all about the importance of being yourself and taking pride in your own identity, no matter what.

Discussion questions

  1. Why was Milo so desperate to go on the school camping trip?
  2. Why aren’t Mikey and Star shocked by Milo’s condition?
  3. How do you think Milo’s classmates would react if they knew the truth? Why might someone with a disability or medical condition want to keep it secret?

My Skinny Sister (2015, 15)

Stella is in awe of her older sister Katja – a professional ice skater dedicated in her pursuit of perfection. Wanting to follow in her footsteps, Stella keeps a close eye on Katja’s every move.

However, the closer she gets, the more she realises Katja is hiding a serious eating disorder.

Discussion questions

  1. Why do you think Katja feels such a strong need to look a certain way?
  2. Why did Stella feel she could not tell her parents about Katja’s disorder? What advice would you give to Stella?
  3. Through whose eyes are we seeing the story? Is this an objective or a personal point of view? What does it reveal about the effect of eating disorders?

The Full Monty (1997, 15)

This British comedy follows the fortunes of a group of former steel workers in Sheffield. With no jobs and no money, the men think they don’t have much hope for the future.

However, when two of them discover just how popular a male strip show can be, they come up with a crazy plan to put on a performance of their own. They may just be normal blokes, and might not really have the moves, but with a bit of practice and a lot of nerve they might just be able to make it happen.

Discussion questions

  1. How do the opening stages of the film present changes that are taking place in Sheffield and the ways in which redundancies are effecting the characters we meet?
  2. What insecurities do some of the characters have about their bodies? Does this change over the course of the film?
  3. How does the friendship developed between the men help them to overcome their anxiety and boost their self-esteem? In what ways have the men changed by the end of the film?