A head of an average 11-year-old weighs approximately 3.5 kg, a crown 4 kg – add to that the tedious talks about beautifying processes and chemicals that could make one’s scalp almost fall off – and you’re bound to frighten an 11-year-old girl for life. Must beauty be so scary, demanding and merciless?
I’ve seen ‘La Reina‘ (The Queen), a short documentary by the young Argentinian director and cinematographer Manuel Abramovich at ZagrebDox 2014 documentary festival last year. It follows Maria Emilia Fracalossi, a young girl whose struggle to keep up with the demands of her role might be a little too demanding. Maria is chosen to represent the Queen of the Chocolate, a queen who embodies the magic of chocolate in all the flavours and shapes during the Argentinian carnival, a role which is considered a huge honour to be given. Except it is in fact very cumbersome to endure.
Our heroine Mimi is 11 years old and she’s literally suffering through her transformation into the Queen of Chocolate. At moments, she gets so fed up that she doesn’t even want to be a queen. She begs her mother to take it off, the crown that’s too heavy and too tight on her head – she is clear and vocal about her dissatisfaction with the process to no avail. Nevertheless – the show must go on! The shine and the glory of Orfeito’s Carneval is carried on Mimi’s fragile neck and spine.
Mimi excels in tennis and swims, too. Her queen role is much too passive in comparison, and how does a queen reign when she’s so passive anyway? The hard work here is the hard work of enduring sacrifice. It requires a completely different set of skills, those that value keeping quiet and enduring whilst suffering, preparing the girl for the big life. She should be thankful for this education, for this initiation to the practices of beauty teaches her adeptly to the ways of the world. How did enduring, sacrifice and suffering ever become synonymous with beauty is criminal.
Sure, there is value to practicing endurance and some cultures do benefit to similar traditional procedures. But this one in particular, attaches itself right onto the unrealistic expectations society places on little girls in terms of achieving beauty and the role of beauty in their lives.
In this short, we are faced with observing tradition as a tool that uses beauty as a binding agent that expects the girl to achieve a certain role. She doesn’t want to, but she is expected to, because how can she decline such an honour. “It’s every little girl’s dream”, and that’s how she gets pushed into the devious circle. There isn’t a line to be drawn to ‘Toddlers and Tiaras‘, which is a festival of bad taste catered to couch potatoes. It achieves exactly the opposite; ‘La Reina‘ reveals the terror of tradition, whilst finally giving the full limelight to the carrier of the torch, often those most neglected when it comes to giving credits. Seen through tradition, beauty is the cruellest ruler of them all. But it needn’t be so.
La Reina is the winner of more than 40 international awards.
Documentary Short / Argentina / 2013
Director: Manuel Abramovich
Cinematographer MANUEL ABRAMOVICH and JUAN RENAU
Production company SALOMÓN CINE
Line producer DANIELA RASCHCOVSKY
Sound SOFÍA STRAFACE
Editor IARA RODRIGUEZ VILARDEBÓ
Color grading LUISA CAVANAGH