STRONG! Professor's Documentary Featured Nationwide
Julie Wyman, an assistant professor in cinema and technocultural studies, presented her newest film STRONG! on April 12th at the Veteran’s Memorial Building for the Davis Feminist Film Festival. It will also be screened on the national PBS documentary series Independent Lens this summer.
This documentary follows the story of Olympian Cheryl Haworth, and covers her trials with weightlifting, her struggle with injury and disappointment and also her process of navigating her own body image in a culture where large women are not readily accepted. STRONG! is significantly different from Wyman’s previous films yet it retains a thematic element present in much of Wyman’s work.
“STRONG! is part of a longstanding project for me as both a filmmaker and an artist,” explained Wyman. “I’m interested in subjects that challenge gender categories, especially subjects who make us re-think body size and weight, and which bodies are and are not acceptable.”
Haworth intrigued Wyman as a potential subject for a documentary over a decade ago. She first became familiar with Haworth during the media coverage of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
“I first saw footage of Cheryl when she won a Bronze medal in Sydney,” remarked Wyman. “She was only seventeen and a confident and athletic powerhouse at 300 pounds. She was receiving a lot of media coverage at the time, and I read that she was enrolled in art school, so she struck me as someone who would be an interesting subject.”
In 2004 Wyman was searching for a new project, and contacted Haworth through her coach. This initial phone call was the beginning of a much longer process.
“From the first time I met Cheryl, I got a sense of her character,” said Wyman. “She’s quirky and always observing the world around her. Not your stereotypical jock. She’s a person with a lot of dimension. And she was interested in being part of my project.”
Over the course of seven years Wyman filmed Haworth training, competing and socializing. Filming was sporadic and depended largely upon the significant events in Cheryl’s life.
“Cheryl was stationed either in Savannah or Colorado, while I was based in California. I also shot footage of her competing in the 2007 World Championship in Thailand and also in Beijing at the 2008 games. My ability to shoot, to travel, and to hire crew largely depended on funding from outside sources.”
Wyman filmed solo for a significant part of the project but incorporated the help of cinematographer Anne Etheridge whenever possible. The project resulted in hundreds of hours of footage and an edited 75 minute long film.
Wyman’s film will be broadcast on the national PBS documentary series, Independent Lens this July. It will also be screened at venues across the country. For a list of screenings visit the PBS site.