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photo Western Eyes
By Ann Shin
A National Film Board of Canada Production

Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing another face staring back at you. Would it change your identity? How much do your looks have to do with who you are?

Western Eyes examines the search for beauty and self-acceptance through the experiences of Maria Estante and Sharon Kim, young women contemplating cosmetic surgery. Both of Asian descent — Maria is Filipina and Sharon is Korean — they believe their appearance, specifically their eyes, affect the way they are perceived by others.

For Maria, surgery is an expedient way to solve her crisis. "I could spend $5,000 to fix my nose and eyes and feel better," she confesses as she sits in front of a mirror applying makeup and criticizing her facial features. "Or I could go into therapy — but who has the time to spend two or three years in therapy?"

Troubled by their relationships with their mother, their ancestry and their physical appearance, both Maria and Sharon feel somewhat unsettled in Western society. "I am recreating myself, I am balancing East and West. I'm getting it done because I want to feel better," explains Sharon.

Layering interviews with references to super models and other pop-culture icons of beauty, award-winning filmmaker Ann Shin draws viewers into the real-time emotional journey of Maria and Sharon as each contemplates surgery. Shin uses a variety of cinematic tools to reflect shifting perspectives, illustrating the relative nature of beauty. Using the camera to look beyond appearances, Shin captures the pain that almost always lies behind the desire for plastic surgery.

40 minutes
© 2000
Purchase $248 DVD
Order No. QA-541
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Reviews
"[A] remarkable video... Western Eyes tracks the decision of two young immigrant women to undergo cosmetic surgery in the hope that a new look will make them more acceptable in the predominantly white... city where they live. A smooth, flowing, even lyrical visual production."- General Anthropology Newsletter

"Western Eyes captures the emotional pain that these two women experience because they feel they don't measure up to some perceived standard of beauty.... Although both are attractive young women, they talk movingly of being made to feel different in school, being called names, and feeling insecure about their looks."- Voice of Youth Advocates

"Amplified by cinematic techniques... this video takes viewers on a journey fraught with emotional conflict and pain. This exploration of the pressures of pop culture makes an interesting addition to high school, college and public library collections." - Booklist

"Straightforward interviews with the women, their friends, relatives, and doctors... prove most interesting. This film is particularly recommended for young females." - Library Journal

"RECOMMENDED for... Asian and Women's Studies collections."- Educational Media Reviews Online

Awards & Conference Screenings
2002 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival
2001 National Women's Studies Association Conference Film Festival

Related Films
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Inside/Out: Toni struggled all her life to feel good about her appearance. At 61, she had finally come to peace with that issue when she suddenly contracted a disease that left half of her face paralyzed. Now she is on a different journey, an internal one, to explore the question of what role physical appearance plays in her self-perception and feelings of self worth?

Her Name Is Zelda: An intimate, sometimes troubling, portrait of life, aging, and womanhood, through the lively exploits of 85-year-old Zelda Kaplan — Manhattan's oldest party animal since Disco Sally. A dancer, social butterfly, model, and humanitarian, Zelda takes life by storm, redefining what it means to be “old” in the process.

Let's Face It: A touching and intimate glimpse into the self-explorations of several women in their 40's, 50's, and 60's. As they face the natural reality of aging, they reflect on the impact that physical changes have not only on their bodies, but also on their attitudes about themselves, and on the way they are perceived by society.

Beauty In Aging: From a group of friends who share their experiences of normal aging, to a woman stricken with facial paralysis, to nursing home beauty contestants, to an 85-year-old social butterfly and humanitarian, this program, compiled from excerpts from four videos, allows women to speak for themselves about the transitions of aging.

Gorgeous: Animated film by Kaz Cooke, whose character Hermoine, the Modern Girl, tackles plastic surgery, beauty therapy, and bulimia in a feral fit of inadequacy.


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