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- Directed by Kseniya Yorsh -

This short film documents the struggle of a young woman with society’s perception of beauty.

Holly is a good-looking 29-year-old that feels the need to put on heavy make-up whenever she meets people. We get glimpses of her 2.5 hours routine, while she talks about the reasons behind her habit. Also, separate scenes with her male friends depict their simplistic everyday grooming. The origins of her insecurity date back to her early childhood, when she had a cross eye, which was later corrected with surgery. Her physical imperfection resulted in her isolation, a problem that was immediately solved after her looks changed. As an adult, she still thinks people’s perception depends on one’s appearance. At the end, she is confronted with the thoughts of her male friends about her, who are positive beyond her excessive make-up.

This documentary portrait has a simple structure, resembling makeover reality TV shows. The protagonist tells her story while performing her intimate routine of putting on make-up,  while the male characters are interviewed. There are no in-between moments, no shots of observation of these characters that could have shown to us more about them. We feel the constant presence of the crew and the characters are not given much time to express themselves. We find the questions to be superficial, lacking the force to dig up the mind of the participants. It’s one thing what people state in order to be fair and likable and another thing to inspect their perspectives thoroughly. Further on, Holly identifies the beauty standards to be gender based, a theory which can’t be confirmed just by using the opinions of a few confident male friends.

Holly’s narrative is honest and detailed, showing she put some effort into describing her own insecurities, obsessions and her own view of society’s norms. The hand-held camera shots and fluid sense of motion conveyed by the editing build a feeling of intimacy with the character. However, the rest of the film is dominated by medium shot interviews of the characters and the audience loses the previous sensation of closeness.

The technical aspects of the film could have been tackled with more attention. Occasionally, the voices echo and we also noticed the improvised backgrounds.

All in all, “Mask-up”  is a short film with a thought-provoking premise, which hasn’t been developed to its full potential.

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