Ever see a film you just can’t get out of your head, your soul, your spirit? Shooting Beauty was that film for me. I first saw this documentary at the Phoenix Film Festival, and thought highly of such a courageous effort. Disabilities is not a bad word, it is just a word, condition, a situation we choose to avoid, not acknowledge and not deal with, if we can help it. It is too complex, hard, awkward, sad and challenging to engage, and many of us do not.
Shooting Beauty is the story of Courtney Bent, a beautiful, award-winning fashion photographer who instead of following the world of fashion and influence as she was reared to do by her affluent and proper family; lent her skills, abilities and talents to the nonprofit track and decided to volunteer with the physically disabled.
After spending time as a volunteer, Bent wanted to share her love of photography with the residents. What, she wondered, would it be like to see the world through the eyes of the residents of the center. So she gave them cameras, which was a herculean task. Since all of the residents had a variety of physical challenges, Bent had to literally rig cameras for some of the residents. One gentleman could only take pictures by using his tongue to snap a shot with his camera.
Unbeknownst to anyone, the well-meaning photographer opened and expanded the world view of the disabled citizens and her own view of ability versus disability. The pictures the disabled residents returned were so moving, funny, creative and full of unique quality that Bent wanted to show the world.
Determined, she set off to find a venue and funding for a photography showcase for the residents. The new photographers were truly thrilled, many said this was one of the most exciting experiences of their lives.
Shooting Beauty is peppered with the personal stories of the residents, their lives, love lives, goals and dreams from their wheel chairs, in most cases, and their daily routines. The film challenges one’s views and perspectives on life in general.
What the film achieves in an effortless manner is “barrier breaking” plain and simple. After meeting the people, who are delightful characters, you no longer think of them as “poor crippled people,” instead they are folks in the midst of change and discovery. People, just like us, many sharing the same everyday issues, wants and dreams that touch everyone.
Director, producer and editor George Kachadorian does a fantastic job of editing the documentary in a way that transforms your feelings, attitudes and opinions in real time.
What a shame that Shooting Beauty may never play in any mainstream theaters. Films like this should be “required viewing” for the whole world.
Jamise Liddell is a guest movie reviewer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News.