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Flesh Out in Berlinale’s Panorama

Michela Occhipinti's debut, Flesh Out, in the Berlinale

The project awarded by EWA NETWORK  in the First Development Award to the best female-directed project in Trieste (When East Meets West) , Flesh Out (Il Corpo della Sposa) was presented in world premiere in the Panorama section at this year's Berlinale.

Il corpo della sposa by Michela Occhipinti (© Alain Parroni / Vivo Film)

The story of a woman who risks her health in order to satisfy an aesthetic canon imposed on her by others is at the heart of Flesh Out, the first fiction feature by Michela Occhipinti (Lettere dal deserto – elogio della lentezza, 2010), which was presented in world premiere in the Panorama section at the Berlinale.

Set in Mauritania, the film tells the story of Verida (newcomer Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche), a young woman who works in a beauty salon, spends time on social media and has fun with her friends. When her family chooses a future husband for her, Verida – like many of her peers – is forced to put on weight, essentially force-feeding herself in order to achieve the beauty ideal and social status that her country's tradition has imposed on her. As her marriage approaches, meal after meal, Verida questions everything she has taken for granted: her loved ones, her way of life and her own body.

From the opening shot, when Verida looks directly into camera over the bowl of milk she’s drinking,  we notice how confrontational Flesh Out is.  At the end of the film, it leaves us questioning what it means to be beautiful and in which way the beauty standards - regardless of culture, it's always female beauty–are just  a way to control women’s bodies. Occhipinti’s film it’s certainly thought-provoking.

"To what extent do social models, often built to satisfy male desires, influence and condition the women of the world?" asks the director, who intends to use Verida's story to focus on the complexity of the relationship women have with their bodies. "The Mauritania in the film works as an 'elsewhere,’ the opposite to the world I come from and live in, and yet, in its paradoxical inversion of a series of relationships, it acts as a mirror, revealing the distorted way in which women's bodies are perceived.’

Flesh Out was produced by Marta Donzelli and Gregorio Paonessa for Vivo Film with RAI Cinemaand in association with the German outfit Films Boutique. The film received contributions from MIBAC - General Directorate of Cinema, the Region of Lazio and Europa Creativa - MEDIA Programme. International sales are being handled by Films Boutique, while Lucky Red will be distributing the film in Italy.