Beauty pageants have become increasingly contentious over the decades for their objectification of women and narrow beauty standards. But, what to make of a beauty pageant that adds personal suffering and resilience to the judgment yardsticks? The Miss Holocaust Survivor Beauty Pageant has been taking place for several years now in the Israeli city of Haifa and features elderly contestants who made it out the other side of the Shoah, the genocide in which Nazi Germany and its collaborators killed six million Jews between 1941 and 1945. It aims to focus on «not their measurements but their stories,» says one of the organisers in The Pageant, Turkish-Jewish director Eytan Ipeker’s look inside the event, which premiered in the online edition of Nyon’s Visions du Réel festival. «It’s not just a beauty pageant, it’s about their inner world, how they survived and remain strong,» she says. But the combination of catwalks and hairstylists with the recounting of trauma has inevitably been highly controversial, with many deeming the packaging of the showcase macabre and exploitative, especially given the politicisation of the pageant as propaganda for the nation’s right-wing leadership. Also, should a history of persecution ever be turned into something competitive?
Of course, it’s a thorny, multi-layered, and visually striking subject that seems readymade for a critically minded documentary treatment, so it’s no surprise this is not the first we’ve seen on it. Polish director Michalina Musielak’s subscription? It is onbly 9 euro quarterly to read on, and you will get full access to close to soon 2000 articles, all our e-magazines – and we will send you the coming printed magazines.
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