September 3, 2008

Vancouver’s Starring Role


Filmmaker Darryl Roberts, second from left, greets Mountain View High School students, from left, Katrina Olsen, Eli Bauer, Danika Hamann and Millie Bernatovicz, all 17, before the local premiere of Roberts' film, "America the Beautiful," in Portland on Tuesday.

"America the Beautiful" features former Wy'east Middle School students discussing the pressure they face to be beautiful. The film's premiere drew a crowd from Vancouver.

Chicago filmmaker Darryl Roberts attended premieres in Los Angeles and New York for his documentary, "America the Beautiful," which explores our nation's obsession with physical appearances. But while these events may have had red carpets, flashing lights, the possibility of star sightings and after-parties with crab cakes, they didn't have the genuine joy exhibited Tuesday night by the 120- plus people who turned out at Portland's Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10 to support Roberts.

"You can tell everyone's here to celebrate in a real way," said Roberts, 46.

This sincerity was something Roberts came to appreciate during the two years he lived in Vancouver while gathering footage for "America the Beautiful" and working with Pedro Peraza, the film's editor, and Dennis Damore, executive producer.

Both Peraza and Damore, along with their families, beamed with pride at the Portland opening.

"It's been five years in the making," said 42-year-old Peraza.

Shortly into the film, which uses the story of a young model named Gerren Taylor to illustrate society's unattainable standards of beauty, murmurs of recognition rippled through the audience.

Students from Wy'east Middle School in Vancouver filled the screen, discussing the pressure to be beautiful.

Some former Wy'east students came to the screening and enjoyed seeing people they know in the movie. They still remember when Roberts filmed at their school more than three years ago.

"It was so crazy," said 17-year-old Katrina Olsen of Vancouver, now a senior at Mountain View High School.

"It was like the most exciting thing that ever happened at our school," added Danika Hamann, 17, of Vancouver, also a Mountain View High School senior.

Roberts praised Vancouver parents for insulating their children from the insecurities and shallowness plaguing the rest of America.

Still, the desire to fit in does exist in Clark County. The best antidote, Hamann and Olsen said, is choosing friends who don't obsess over looking like models in magazines or actresses on television.

"We're not out there to impress other people," Hamann said.

"We are who we are," Olsen confirmed.

That's a mentality Vancouver resident Mary Muhich hopes to instill in daughter Emily, whom she brought to the premiere.

Muhich, who teaches Advanced Placement psychology at Mountain View High School, is featured in "America the Beautiful," discussing with her students how advertisers objectify and sexualize women to sell products.

Muhich, 40, wants Emily to gain that same understanding and build her self-esteem based on virtues other than looks.

"I want her to see how superficial our society is when it comes to appearances, and to learn to embrace all looks, shapes, sizes and colors. To embrace herself," Muhich said.

If you go

What: "America the Beautiful," rated R for some language, sexual references.

When: Opens Friday. Advanced screening: 7 p.m. today.

Where: Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10, 846 S.W. Park Ave., Portland.

Cost: $10 adults; $9 students; $8 matinee; $7 children, seniors and military. Tonight's screening is free.

Information: 503-221-3280, , . ON the web: Hear excerpts from an interview with Darryl Roberts, writer, director, producer and narrator of "America the Beautiful" at .

Mary Ann Albright can be reached at

[email protected]

or 360-735-4507.

Originally published by MARY ANN ALBRIGHT Columbian staff writer.

(c) 2008 Columbian. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.