TVO and Telefilm celebrate beauty and hair in recent film

By Stephen Weir

Jennifer Holness

The most beautiful women in the world are Black, so, according to a 2021 90-minute Canadian documentary film, it should not be shocking that White women are appropriating the look Big Time.  Subjects of Desire, a film by Jennifer Holness, celebrates Black women and girls while examining how the “look” impacts beauty ideals and media representation around the world.

These days there is a huge cultural shift in the fashion and entertainment world embracing Black female aesthetics and features, while, according to the film makers “exposing the deliberate and often dangerous portrayals of Black women in the media.”

Earlier this month this ground breaking documentary, was shown at PAMA (Brampton’s museum, art gallery) for a community discussion organized by the city’s Roots Community Services. The film was a catalyst about the complexity of the Black identity and representation in the world of fashion and media.

Brittney Lee Lewis (Miss Black America 2017). Singer Jully Black. Actress India Arie. CBC’s Amanda Parris. Michelle Obama.  The film features interviews with Black models, designers, photographers, and academics who explore the intersections of race, gender, and class in the fashion industry. The stars discuss their experiences of being both subjects and objects of desire, and the challenges of navigating a world that values certain bodies over others.

Fifteen years ago no one would have figured that full butts and lips would ever be the look. And now in the 2020s “society’s new fixation on the “booty” and fuller lips to the dramatic rise of spray-tanned skin, ethnic hairstyles, and athletic bodies, some argue that Black women are having a beauty moment,” says the movie. “Others — primarily Black women — argue that traditional Black features and attributes are seen as more desirable when they are on white women.”

“The film can be a beacon of hope for racialized girls … and a tool for non-racialized girls to have to think about and reflect on the ways they may be perpetuating negative stereotypes about girls and women who identify as Black,” says Belinda Longe, Superintendent of Education, Toronto District School Board.

According to the movie the most disrespected person in America is still the Black woman even though in recent years all of the major fashion pageants have been won by Black woman. They are, says the film, the most educated group in America and continue to set global beauty standards.

“Subjects of Desire ” is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the ways in which our society constructs and values bodies. The film is generating a buzz, at community showings like what was held in Brampton. Attendees praised its insightful analysis and powerful storytelling.

The film was made by Jeniffer Holness’s Hungry Eyes Media Inc with TVO and the support of Canada’s Telefilm. IT has now been screened at over 15 international film festivals and has received rave reviews from industry critics. The film was selected as one of Canada’s Top Ten Films of 2021, and director Jamaican-born Canadian film and television director Jennifer Holness was one of five international filmmakers featured at the SXSW film festival.

The showing and discussion was organized by Roots Community Services, a non-profit group who for almost four decades has provided culturally-sensitive and culturally-enriching programs to the Black, African and Caribbean (BAC)communities in Brampton and the Region of Peel.