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Beauty Mark

Body Image & the Race for Perfection (Educational Edition)

Beauty Mark

Duration: 50 min
ISBN: 1-932869-29-8
Date Produced: 2008
Subtitles: English

Filmmaker Info
Study Guide
Press Room
Film Festivals
Related Links
Press Reviews
Praise for the Film

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Beauty Mark
Body Image & the Race for Perfection (Educational Edition)

A film by Diane Israel, Carla Precht & Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal
A She-Art Production

How do our families influence our relationship with our own bodies? How do American pop culture's standards of beauty get inside our hearts and heads? In what ways can sport and the drive for fitness actually make us sick rather than healthy?

Diane Israel explores American culture's unhealthy preoccupation with thinness, beauty, and physical perfection. Israel, a Boulder-based psychotherapist and former champion triathlete, recounts how she grew up feeling intense pressure to be beautiful and successful -- and how, as a result, she raced headlong into a devastating and near-fatal spiral of disordered eating and obsessive exercising. Along the way, Beauty Mark provides crucial insights into the relationship between media culture, gender norms, and girls' and women's health.

Featuring commentary from Eve Ensler, Paul Campos, and Naomi Wolf, and insights from athletes, bodybuilders, fashion models, and inner-city teens. The DVD includes a bonus feature with Israel talking in greater detail about her recovery.

Beauty Mark is a classroom edition (produced by Carla Precht in association with MEF) of Diane Israel, Carla Precht, and Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal's 75-minute documentary film by the same title (a She-art Production in association with Salmon Pictures).

For additional resources and information, visit the film's website:

Sections: Introduction | Racing Her Heart Out | A Distorted Mindset | Mayhem | Searching for Beauty | Re-Imagining Beauty | Going Home

Filmmaker Info

Executive Producer: Diane Israel
Producer: Carla Precht & Diane Israel
Assistant Producer: Julia Andersen
Director: Carla Precht & Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal
Editor: Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal & Daniel Brothers
Written by: Carla Precht & Diane Israel
Cinematographer: Edgar Boyles, Tim Fenoglio, Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal, Stephanie Martin, Kevin McLaughlin, Tarina Reed, Roger Sherman, Justin Whiteman
Post-Production Supervisor: Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal
Sound Editor & Mixer: Patrick Selvage

Filmmaker's Bio

DIANE ISRAEL | Executive Producer, Co-Producer, Co-Writer, Founder of SheArt LLC
Diane Israel was a very successful professional triathlete and runner for 15 years. She was the 1984 Colorado mountain running champion and a world-class racer whose achievements included winning the bronze medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. After retiring from professional competition, she became a psychotherapist specializing in domestic violence with offenders. Diane is a professor in transpersonal psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is also a senior counselor at Women's Quest, a mind-body-spirit adventure camp for women and the co-owner of a Gyrotonic movement studio. A recovering athletic bulimic, Diane counsels people in physical, mental and spiritual integration. She has made it her mission to provide strong support and guidance for others in the areas of body image, nutrition and rekindling life's passions and direction. Diane is the founder of SheArt LLC, the production company behind Beauty Mark.

CARLA PRECHT | Co-Producer, Co-Director, Co-Writer
Carla Precht was Diane's neighbor growing up in Scarsdale, NY. She has spent the last 30 years running New York City educational, advocacy and social service programs and agencies that primarily served low-income families and children. She was Executive Director of a settlement house in the Bronx from 1990-2000, and is currently the Executive Director of an academic enrichment program called Horizons and the Director of the community service programs at Brooklyn Friends School. Carla is now Diane's booking agent as well as outreach coordinator for the Beauty Mark film. She is the mother of two children, a writer, an advocate for human rights, a trainer in the school-age care profession and a nonprofit management consultant. Carla's passion for equality and justice, and her love of art, have propelled her into the world of film.

KATHLEEN MAN GYLLENHAAL | Co-Director, Co-Editor, Post-Production Supervisor
Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal is an independent filmmaker, Yale graduate, and Fulbright Scholar who hails from Hawai'i. She is the writer/director of a diverse body of award-winning documentaries and dramas including The Interview, a Kafkaesque French-language film set in Paris, and Sita: A Girl From Jambu, an ethnographic drama about child sex trafficking in Nepal. Gyllenhaal was also the producer and director of photography of Kind of a Blur, a film festival favorite starring Sandra Oh. Gyllenhaal is a tenured professor of film production at Vassar College in New York, where she teaches directing, screenwriting and narrative and documentary filmmaking. She recently wrote and directed Walk the Fish, a short film collaboration with Vassar film and drama students, and the award-winning Hawaiian short, Lychee Thieves. Gyllenhaal is the co-producer of the feature film Grassroots, directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal and starring Jason Biggs, Joel David Moore, Cedric the Entertainer and Lauren Ambrose. She is currently writing and directing Cosmopolitan, her first dramatic feature film and executive producing Exquisite Continent, a documentary on dreams and dream interpretation. See

Film Festivals

2011 Crested Butte Film Festival
2010 Kos International Health Film Festival, Greece
2009 National Council of Jewish Women's Annual Women's Film Festival
2008 PSBT Open Frame International Film Festival & Forum, New Delhi, India
2008 Estes Park Film Festival
2008 Moondance International Film Festival
2008 Boulder International Film Festival


Audience Choice Award | 2008 Estes Park Film Festival
Audience Choice Award | 2008 Moondance International Film Festival

Click here to see an extensive list of organizations, books, and articles to provide you with resources to accompany Beauty Mark.

Press Reviews

"Beauty Mark: Body Image and the Race for Perfection is a poignant video memoir of Diane Israel, a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders, and her own struggle to overcome exercise bulimia, the use of excessive exercise as a mechanism to escape emotional pain. Through family photographs, home movies, and running commentary by Israel's family, female partners, and friends, the viewer learns about the devastating effects of eating and exercise disorders... This compelling video is more than one person's case history. Israel has integrated the sociohistorical and cultural context for eating and exercise disorders and the obsession for body perfection and thinness."
- Teaching Sociology

"This compelling documentary recounts the personal journey of Diane Israel, a psychotherapist and former champion triathlete, from anorexia and obsessive exercising to recovery. From her love of running as a child through her obsession with thinness as a teen and young adult, Israel describes how her health deteriorated through the pursuit of physical perfection. Featuring testimony from Israel and other athletes with body-image issues, the film explores eating and obsessive exercise disorders and the standards of beauty in our American culture. The athletes talk about of exercise, the avoidance of food, and bulimic behavior as weight-control tactics. Diane Israel is now a psychotherapist devoted to helping others by expanding their view of beauty and body image. She talks with a class of teens about body image to help them learn to accept themselves. Experts discuss re-imaging the concept of beauty. While the concentration is on women's body issues, concerns common to both sexes are covered. An inspiring film for health classes, sports teams, and professional development."
- School Library Journal

"A powerful and thought-provoking documentary for high school and college students. The final message, with a shift from blaming to acceptance, by way of courage and compassion, is a lesson for all."
- Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD. | Relationship and Intimacy Counselor | Contemporary Sexuality

"Beauty Mark isn't just facts. It's about defining true beauty and examining the relationship between self loathing and our own bodies.... Since its release in 2008, Beauty Mark has done more than promote discussion. It has directly helped people communicate their own feelings."
- Lauren K. Ohnesorge | The Mountain Times Online

Praise for the Film

"A fresh, honest film about self-image and the disconnect between our minds and our bodies. Beauty Mark exposes the myriad emotional, cultural, and psychological influences that compel us to measure ourselves against an elusive standard of physical perfection -- sometimes at the price of our own health. Full of wisdom, hope, and humor."
- Lois Dino | Associate director of programming, Jacob Burns Film Center

"In this honest, thoughtful, courageous film, Diane Israel and Carla Precht speak to the seductiveness of the beauty and thinness culture and the dire consequences experienced by those who are taken in by it. With eloquent voices, we hear women and men speak of their difficult, but rewarding, journeys when they choose authenticity and define their lives and their selves from the inside out."
- Dr. Brenda Alpert Sigall | Clinical Psychologist & Director, Eating Disorders Program at University of MD Counseling Center

"Beauty Mark is an inspiring and powerful documentary that reveals how difficult it is for many female athletes to have a genuinely healthy, joyful relationship with their bodies. We applaud Diane Israel for telling her poignant story. The movie beautifully reveals the factors that ended her career as a triathlete and the indomitable passion that has enabled Diane to regain her health and her love of athletics and to become the role model she is today."
- Marjorie Snyder | Women's Sports Foundation

"This is one of the most effective and powerful films I have come across in the past 20+ years of teaching high school health. I had a GREAT response to it with my students. The complexity of issues and the presentation of the material provided me with ample opportunities to develop discussions and activities with my students. I am so thankful to have this tool to use with my students. I highly recommend it for high school and college use."
- Nancy Becerra | Health Teacher at Horace Greeley High School

"The showing of Beauty Mark for our professional development day was a spectacular success! Our district superintendent summed it up well: "Beauty Mark is a liberation of the soul: It's not just about eating disorders, it's about all of us." Many of the 81 guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers, health teachers, school nurses, gym teachers, and coaches who came are still ranting and raving about the film. It was wonderful to have the co-producers, Diane Israel and Carla Precht, there too. It was a truly awesome event that deeply impacted every participant. Beauty Mark and its creators have begun a speaking/screening circuit that is the best-case format for any high school or college."
- Susan Lesser | Special Projects at Arlington Central School District

"Beauty Mark is a powerful and poignant film that will resonate with anyone who has ever had issues with food, exercise, or body acceptance. Our students from the Five College Consortium in western Massachusetts were noticeably moved by the honest, compelling story of one woman's struggle and eventual recovery from obsessive exercising and anorexia. Beauty Mark explores in a very authentic way the concepts of athletic excellence and competition, perfection, and beauty. It is touching and it is inspirational."
- Ellen Perrella | Head Athletic Trainer at Mount Holyoke College | Coordinator of the West Massachusetts Five College ED Task Force

"Beauty Mark is a real gem. It is a unique, personal, insightful and powerful film. You have created a film which can touch both the mind and the heart."
- Bill Baker | Former Chief Executive Officer, Thirteen/WNET New York

"... A great way to start out National Eating Disorders Awareness Week."
- Erin Hurley | Men's and Women's Swim Coach at Grinnell College

"I was so intensely moved by watching Beauty Mark -- I had no words. It hit home with me on many different levels -- as a guidance counselor, daughter, mother, human... It gave me so much to think about and to use every day. I really thank you for sharing it."
- Amy D. | Guidance Counselor at Arlington High School

"Beauty Mark is a vulnerable and complex journey story -- not just about one woman, but about us all. She has the courage and determination to ask the tough questions -- how do our families influence our relationships with our own bodies? How does the culture get inside of our hearts and heads? In what ways do sports serve to make us sicker instead of healthier? How can we possibly get back to self-love? Soul-baring interviews with inspiring change-makers, innovative shoots at a mannequin factory and a spinning class, and great music round out this highly original documentary. Beauty Mark has the power to make you slow down in a life of unconscious racing."
- Courtney E. Martin | Author, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body

"Diane Israel's Beauty Mark really leaves its own mark on the viewer as it reveals the intricacies, complexities and often anguish of living through an eating disorder. She has opened her heart and mind to us in a very thoughtful, inviting and provocative way that humanizes the story of the journey toward recovery as she warmly touches the soul."
- Lynn Grefe | Chief Executive Officer, National Eating Disorders Association

"This is very much an honest, sensitive and balanced production. The insight into Diane's personal journey is particularly strong. What I really like is that the film does not jump to a trite "here are 10 things to do" type solution. Instead it communicates that this is not an easy issue to resolve. This is a thoughtful, responsible film with a clear message delivered via a powerful personal testimony."
- Martin Staniforth | Dove Self-Esteem Fund

"Beauty Mark tells Diane Israel's compelling story honestly and openly, and acts as a powerful medium for bringing an important social issue to the public forum. This film is not only moving, but is an immensely effective tool for generating discussion and understanding the underlying issues that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. No teenager -- or their parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who loves or works with them -- should miss it."
- Natalie Peck | Co-Chair, Jewish Women's Foundation of New Jersey

"I watched Beauty Mark twice -- once as a 'person' and once as a psychologist. As I watched the first part (sports/exercise focus), I was saying to myself, 'My athlete-patients need to see this.' As I finished the film, I was saying to myself, 'All my patients need to see this.' It was painfully, yet beautifully, personal. This is clearly one of the best films, if not the best, that I have seen on the topic. It is both informative and interesting.... This film is a true 'beauty mark' for this field."
- Ron A. Thompson | Psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders | Author, Helping Athletes with Eating Disorders

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