Maria Koury '17 Wins ‘Best of Smith’ with Body Image Documentary ‘My Body is Not Yours’

Andrea Schmid '17

Staff Writer

Marie Koury ’17’s 12-minute film on body image, “My Body is Not Yours,” began as a class project sharing interviews with five female-bodied people as well as Koury’s own story and recently won “Best of Smith” at the Five College Film Festival.

What inspired you to make this documentary?

MK: “My Body is Not Yours” is an experimental documentary. It is the genre I am most interested in pursuing as a filmmaker. I originally made this movie for a class, where the only assignment we had was to just make “something.” Since it could be about anything, I was sure that I wanted to make this kind of film. I did not want to make a traditional documentary. I wanted to make a movie that was about something different, that no one had seen before. Making this film an experimental documentary enabled me to evoke something extra other than simply saying, “These are these people’s stories.” In the end, I learned so much from interviewing these Smithies, and I was able to extract certain commonalities among the stories while still highlighting as many nuances as possible in one 12-minute film.

The people you interviewed clearly had very different relationships with their bodies. What were you trying to convey with this diverse selection of interviewees?

MK: That particular aspect of the film took a lot of turns while I was making it. At first I was  thinking about the theme of this film within the lens of women and women’s bodies, but after I considered the importance of the current presence of gender politics at Smith, I decided to approach it differently, through the lens of female bodies. After that, I refined my thesis, which was that, by virtue of being female-bodied, you internalize all these different kinds of messages about your body. So my goal became to interview different people with different sexualities and gender identities and see what I got from it.  At first I thought I would get something much more universal from all of the interviews, but after that, I stopped trying to find a conclusion. I simply wanted to make the point that all of these people are female-bodied and ask, “What does that mean?”

Body image awareness and body positivity are issues that are important to most Smithies, so this film would likely be applauded by everyone on this campus. Do you think that its powerful messages would be received differently by a male-dominated audience?

MK: Absolutely. I knew that this was an important piece for the Smith community to see because it is a topic that is always in the air. This might sound horrible, but I think that men are the ones that should be seeing it the most. Everyone has a topic of advocacy that turns them into a raging feminist, and this is mine. I want a male audience to see this close-up imagery of female bodies because I want them to see them in a different context from which they normally do. I wanted them to see how much female bodies get exploited and challenge them to see naked female bodies differently. By highlighting the gender-binary struggles that came with interviewees who were more masculine presenting, I wanted them to realize how female-bodied individuals who present this way either get ridiculed or ignored. I wanted to push that in their face – if they were hearing all of these incredible stories but still viewing the bodies on screen as hyper-sexual, then f*** them for doing that.

A major theme of the film was based on the power of the internal and external forces that influence the relationship that we have with our bodies. What do you think about this after creating “My Body is Not Yours?”

MK: That duality is part of the reason I wanted to make this film, so this is a really fundamental question. While I was analyzing my own struggle with an eating disorder, I remember realizing that the roots of my problems seemed to have a clear-cut divide between internal-external influences. My own progression has always been very internal, but one of the people I interviewed almost verbatim voiced that her body-image struggles were first only influenced by external forces and then later became internal, and that is often the pattern that happens. These internal-external struggles of body image issues absolutely exist, and people are often weaving through these two kinds of pressures. Even though there is not a clear-cut answer to this question, it is bizarre that female bodies drastically struggle more with body image issues. This is why I feel so strongly about this and why it is going to continue to be at the heart of many of my future projects.