Beauty has always been subjected to controversies on how it is perceived. The measures to determine have changed rapidly over the course of time. Still, some of the notions haven’t, and their roots have been based on the morals set by a patriarchal society. Flesh Out tells a similar tale of an expected standard of the physical body but on the other extreme. it is based on a tradition called gavage, where the bride-to-be has to gain weight and look voluptuous in order to get married. The film is set in Mauritania, where a voluptuous body is considered to be a mark of beauty. Basing a story on ‘force-eating’ to attain a beauty standard as opposed to Western ideas is extremely interesting and challenging one.

Verida, the protagonist of this film, is in her twenties and works at a salon. Played by Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche, her personal struggle to go through the same experience at a young age is reflected in her nuanced performance. Her exposure to the outer world through social media made her a progressive thinker and a liberal person. So the force-feeding after her engagement feels more than torture to her. She can’t believe in a faith that doesn’t let her live by her own decisions. Everyone around her seems to be going through the same ordeal, where the meals seem disgusting, clearly shown through the frames. Despite knowing how sad this tradition is, her elders seem to focus on blindly following it and suggest her to do the same. After all, that’s how they have survived through their lives.

Flesh Out [2019] Tribeca Review High On films

These forced ideals aren’t something Verida can live with. Her friend Amal (Amal Saab Bouh Omar), who is shown to be a divorcee, is someone who makes her look at another side of life. Shown with her headphones almost all the time, she provides a modern outlook for Verida, who is surrounded by repressed thoughts. Her other friend, who’s an outsider to their world is shown to be a person reflecting western beauty standards, where being thinner is considered beautiful. Through this journey, Verida gets to be with different voices, the ones who give her comfort to the ones who make her follow the customs for her own good.

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Also, Read: This is Not Berlin (2019) Tribeca Review: The Outsiders

Despite standing on a compelling premise, Flesh Out never seem to be more than what I have already told. Its neatly shot frames don’t serve any more purpose. The biggest flaw of this film is that it stops at its basic concept. It never reaches the level of intimacy where we get to know the psychological nuances behind their agony. It rather focuses on showing the cruelties as happenings. The makers seem to have made it on merely a thread, which makes it seem more distant. Even when it tries to get closer with narrative, like the time where she is shown to be driving a car while Sidi (the boy she likes) sings along to the song while sitting next to her, it further exemplifies how unknown the territory is to the director.

And the feminist message Flesh Out tries to convey doesn’t feel strong enough when the story feels more focused on commenting on the culture than the freedom itself. There are no dramatic moments where we get to see her rebellious rigour. Not that the flow it has is a bad choice. But it hardly conveys any deeper insights of the character’s mind that it manages to create merely an aversion for the torture they have to go through. I just wish it had been a universal tale that it so badly wanted to be.



DIRECTOR: Michela Occhipinti
Michela Occhipinti and Simona Coppini
CAST: Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche, Amal Saab Bouh Oumar, Aichetou Abdallahi Najim, Sidi Mohamed Chighaly
LANGUAGE: Hassanya
COMPOSER: Alex Braga
PRODUCERS: Marta Donzelli and Gregorio Paonessa
EDITOR: Cristiano Travaglioli

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