Belly -- Overcoming Bulimia

A Video Review By Shira

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Overall Rating: StarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

This 22-minute documentary describes Katherine Bruce Laing's struggle against bulimia and the role that belly dancing played in helping with her recovery. The bulk of the video consists of interviews with Katherine, her former roommate Sabine Fella, and her belly dance teacher, Tahia Sassine. It ends with Katherine doing a brief belly dancing performance.

I gave it 3 stars because I feel that eating disorders are a critical issue with women in U.S. society, and this video explores the topic well, but I was disappointed that the interviews with Katherine didn't really explore how belly dancing was helpful to her. She said it was helpful, but the interviewer didn't probe at the level of depth I would have preferred.


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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 22 minutes
Performance Time 1:49 minutes (8%)
Documentary/Interviews Time 19:32 minutes (89%)
Amount Of "Other" 1:19 minutes (6%)
Health Issues Yes
List Price $39.95 for home use only.
For classroom/library sales & rentals, please contact Filmakers Library.
Cost Per Minute Of Documentary & Performing Time $1.87
Cost For "Other" $2.39

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The primary focus of this film is to provide a personalized look at bulimia--how it affected the life of one woman, and how she came to recover from it. Although it does address how belly dancing played a role in her recovery, this film is really about bulimia, not about belly dancing.

This film begins with a shot of Katherine Bruce Laing seated at a table with a beautiful meal in front of her. It's touching to watch the tears come to her eyes as she reminisces about how the bulimia all started. The structure comes across as an interview in which you don't hear the interviewer's questions, only her responses. She goes on to talk about what it was like to hate her stomach so much that sometimes she would punch herself in the belly out of rage. Katherine discusses the treatments (both psychological and physical) that she pursued for restoring herself to health.

When Katherine reaches the point in her story where her friend Sabine Fell entered her life, the camera alternates between the two of them as they take turns telling of how they met the relationship that developed between them. It was Sabine who came up with the idea to take belly dancing classes and dragged Katherine along with her.

Tahia Sassine, Katherine's belly dance teacher, talks about the experience of having Katherine as a student. She discusses how she found out about Katherine's eating disorder, and how she reacted. As a belly dance teacher myself, I could really relate to many of Tahia's statements, particularly regarding how she hadn't ever had any training in helping students deal with such issues and wasn't sure how best to proceed.

The video culminates with Katherine talking about the experience of her first recital: how it felt to bare her belly, frame it with glittery substances, and do a dance in front of friends and family. She talks about the moment of revelation when she felt empowered by the experience of performing, and how that helped her take the final steps in healing her body image.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You're interested in learning more about the psychological benefits that some women can derive through belly dancing.
  • You'd like some education on eating disorders and what goes through the minds of people who have them.
  • You're a belly dancing teacher with a student who has an eating disorder and you'd like to understand that student better.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You want a video that features belly dancing performances.
  • You're hoping for in-depth coverage of the topic. (It's only 20 minutes long.)

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

This video is a documentary that explores what it was like for Katherine Bruce Laing to battle with bulimia. If you're looking for a video that will teach you something about dance technique or thrill you with stunning performances, then this is the wrong one for you. There is no information about dance technique, and the performance scene at the end is brief. But if you're interested in the psychological benefits of Oriental dance, then you'll definitely want to add this one to your collection.

What I Liked

  • I felt the content was very important. Eating disorders are rampant among young women, and the message needs to get out that these habits are killing people.
  • It's valuable for people who teach belly dance to understand the deeper meaning our dance form can take on with our students. This video reminds us that we very well may be changing lives with what occurs in our classrooms.
  • The production quality was excellent. The lighting and the sound were both done cleanly, making it easy to relax and concentrate on the content.
  • It was nice having a brief performance by Katherine at the end of the video.
  • Although the film appropriately focused most of the interview time on Katherine, it was interesting to include the interviews with Sabine Fella (the friend who took Katherine with her to try her first belly dance class) and Tahia Sassine (Katherine's belly dance teacher). I especially enjoyed Sassine's reminiscing about her early impressions of Katherine, and what thoughts went through her mind when she learned about Katherine's bulimia.
  • Throughout the interviews, the camera employed varying angles to minimize the "talking head" effect. The transitions from one angle to another came at appropriate frequency, and were smoothly handled.
  • There were many subtle touches that enhanced the overall effect. At the very beginning, the film opens with a tight close-up of a dancer's torso. Then the sound of applause and sight of the dancer dissolve into another image that's rather startling but appropriate. (I won't tell you what it was, because I don't want to ruin the surprise.) Another interesting subtle touch was the fact that while she was being interviewed Katherine was seated at a dining table with a beautiful meal in front of her. In a number of places, the transition from one scene to another included a brief glimpse of dancing with Middle Eastern music. At the beginning of the video, these transitions showed filmy veils without actually revealing the dancer, and as the video progressed, the dancing emerged more and more prominently.
  • There was a nice brief clip (about 30 seconds) of Tahia Sassine (Katherine's teacher) performing.

What I Didn't Like

  • In the performance sections, there were too many shots that focused tight close-ups on the dancer's torso. I always find it a bit disorienting to see a headless torso wiggling because (in my opinion, at least) it seems to dehumanize the dancer. In this particular video, I could forgive it to at least some extent because the nature of the story was to focus on the human belly and Katherine's struggle to reach a peaceful relationship with hers. But even though there was a valid reason for it, I still would have preferred to see less of that camera angle.
  • In the performance sections, I wished for more full-body angles. The camera seemed to go between head-and-chest shots and headless-torso shots. As an audience member, I found myself wanting to see the complete move, not just 1/3 of the body.
  • At the end, I found myself wishing the film had been longer. I do understand the need to keep it short enough be suitable for classroom use, broadcast with commercials, etc.--it did make sense to stop at 22 minutes. But I was left with a strong interest in knowing more.

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I encountered the Filmakers Library video catalog when searching the web for sites that had information about the healing benefits of belly dance. Upon discovering Belly -- Overcoming Bulimia in the listings, I invited them to send me a copy to review for my web site, which they did.

I have never had any interaction with any of the individuals featured on the video (Katherine, Sabine, or Tahia), and my correspondence with Filmakers Library has been strictly on the level of my obtaining information from them to use in this review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Filmakers Library as follows:

Filmakers Library
124 East 40th Street
New York, NY 10016

Phone: (+1) (212) 808-4980
Fax: (+1) (212) 808-4983
Web Site:

Note that the web site gives pricing for classroom, library, and other institutional purchases. If you are purchasing this video for your individual use, be sure to specify that at the time you order so you can get the lower individual price identified in The Chart above.

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