synopsis

At 14, Sophie’s life is suddenly turned upside down. She finds herself in a surreal work camp  with no guards or sentries and where the gates are wide open. In the camp, Sophie meets Ana who offers to become her friend and guide her through this bizarre place. But just as Sophie seems to be able to free herself, Ana begs her to stay. Will Sophie choose to stay with her friend Ana?

why this film

Hunger hurts, but starvation works
Nothing tastes as good as thin feels
- anonymous | ana-by-choice.com

What if you were a normal, intelligent young girl yet no matter how many people told you this, you didn’t believe it?  What if your insecurity and self-confidence were so warped that you kept yourself a captive of your own perceptions?  My Friend Ana is a short fiction drama that explores the themes of outer image dependence, eating disorders and inner mind control.

There have been many documentaries and fiction films produced on eating disorders and their devastating effects on the patient and her family. However in this short film I want to take a different approach. My Friend Ana is a film that explores the private world of a young girl stricken with anorexia nervosa. Like all women suffering from an eating disorder, Sophie is a prisoner – a prisoner of her own perceptions and warped reality, which tell her that she is worthless and fat the way she is. She lives in a world of fear and isolation, where the fear of gaining weight becomes all encompassing and where she must withdraw within herself for fear of anyone finding out her secret.   Anorexics like Sophie become their own worst enemies when “Ana” grabs hold of their minds and starts dictating a strict lifestyle to which they must adhere. Any deviation from this lifestyle means failure and requires retribution.

Unfortunately, anorexic behaviour is not only found in skeletal girls who have to be forced fed in hospital. A large percentage of girls or women who live the lifestyle never lose enough weight to be diagnosed, or are very proficient at keeping their behaviour and their weight loss a secret from everyone around them. Despite the lack of official labeling, these women also live in a mental prison that is controlled by “Ana”.

And when the patient is finally “cured” of the eating disorder, the battle is far from over. The prison always looms in the back of the mind, threatening her and tempting her to come back. Not a day goes by where she doesn’t worry about calories, exercise fanatically or despair at her reflection in the mirror. She avoids fashion magazines for they are a trigger to utter dissatisfaction and a temptation to start the cycle all over again. And sometimes when she is discouraged, she still believes that being thin would solve many of life’s problems.

Not many films have portrayed the inner torment of a young girl – who rates her self-worth according to pictures in a magazine, on television or on the Internet – by how she sees herself and the world around her. In My Friend Ana, I want to show that Sophie is not a loser or a freak, but a normal, average young girl who is trapped by her own mind

why now - or my inspiration

Not long ago, while researching on the Internet, I stumbled upon a terrifying website. Photos of naked and semi-naked young women whose ribs and pelvic bones stuck out and whose arms and legs were nothing more than bone and sinews filled the screen. The caption on the page proudly read, “Anorexic Beauties”. I was horrified. Who could possibly find these pictures attractive?  Further research quickly revealed that this was just one of hundreds of pro-ana (anorexia) websites, part of a recent phenomenon to help trigger likeminded “weborexics” with “thinspiration”.

These young women discuss openly how to survive on 200 calories a day, how to deal with the hunger pains and loss of menstruation and how to lie to parents, teachers and friends who might become suspicious and try to “butt in” on their plans for thinness.

These young women have glamorized their disease by making it seem like a cool lifestyle choice. They even idolize anorexia by giving it a nickname – Ana. They worship her and gladly accept her into their lives since they believe she has the power to make them feel confident and important in the eyes of others.
 
Looking at these pictures and reading through these sites brought back a flood of bad memories. When I was 16, I wanted to lose 5 pounds of “baby fat”. However, what started out as a harmless diet, turned into a 3-year sentence of deceit and insecurity. I lied to my parents, refused to eat, threw up if I ate anything more substantial than a carrot and frantically exercised several hours a day. And I wasn’t alone. My high school cafeteria was full of girls bragging about how little they had to eat that day and how many hours of exercise they had logged. Self-worth was measured in calories, clothing sizes and visibility of ribs.

On one website, jaoii.lunarpages.com, which has since been shut down by Yahoo!, I found several poems that young women had written in an attempt to articulate the love/hate relationship they have with their disease.

Productions Multi-Monde

4067 blvd.St-Laurent, suite 201
Montréal, QC. H2W 1Y7 Canada
+ 1 (514) 842.4047
info@myfriendanathefilm.com
www.pmm.qc.ca