From Jayne Mansfield to The Ghost Whisperer to that clingy tank top that Jodie Foster fills out all through Panic Room, most Hollywood product has been secretly, in its leering way, about the size and shape and shaking of breasts. Funny, then, that Got Breast? — a film that dares to elevate the bust from sneaky selling point to in-the-title subject — should make people a little nervous.
Even the filmmakers. Especially when said film is a thoughtful documentary full of straight talk from real women, a film concerned with breasts from both personal and cultural perspectives.
"At a test screening in July, were having a Q&A afterward," says Annie Walsh, a master's student at UMKC who partnered on Got Breast? with poet, playwright and filmmaker Stacey Tolbert. "I was a little worried, especially with the term 'the male gaze' in the movie. But people laughed in the right places, they went ahhh when they were supposed to, and afterward we had a rich, rewarding discussion. People were really open to the issues."
Among the issues raised in the 67-minute film — which screens Saturday as part of FilmFest Kansas City — are broad ones of body image and sexuality as well as specific ones regarding implants, lumpectomies and how society's oversexualization of the breast has made public breast-feeding almost taboo.
"Our culture is breast-saturated, in that everywhere you go, you see cleavage and implants, and we want to deconstruct that skin-deep image," Walsh says. "Women should be comfortable with their breasts and everything that comes with them."
Walsh and Tolbert interviewed dozens of area women, seeking candor on a subject that too often proves dicey. "We wanted to encourage discourse and to hope that women will feel less awkward and more honest about their bodies."
The result is, sad to say, just about the last thing that audiences expect to see in an American movie theater: an honest look at real women and their lives. "It's about how women really feel," Walsh promises "What could be more natural?"