Film Review: Festival bound Supergirl (USA, 2016) is an inspiring documentary about achieving the impossible

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s Supergirl! The documentary, Supergirl is a film about an American girl with superhuman strength. It’s an inspirational story that is about kicking down barriers and achieving the impossible in the competitive world/sport that is powerlifting.

This documentary is the debut feature length film by director Jessie Auritt. The story focuses on a then pre-teen girl named Naomi Kutin from New Jersey. Kutin originally started powerlifting after she showed a natural ability at karate at the age of eight. This film focuses on her life and some of the competitions she participated in from the ages of 11 to 13.

Kutin was originally named, “Supergirl” by her parents. They thought it was a cute and playful name and were shocked when she actually started winning championships. Kutin’s dad has always been interested in powerlifting and he is Naomi’s trainer. Naomi originally enjoyed powerlifting because it was a way for her to spend more time with her father.

Eventually Kutin would set world records in the 97 pound (44 kg) class. She lifted up to three times her body weight and was beating other competitors who were up to three times her age. For some time she was able to continue competing in this weight class but as this film documents, Naomi does grow up and grow taller and this forces her into the next one.

The Supergirl story is a rather intriguing one. Kutin has to negotiate a sport that remains male-dominated along with her family’s religious beliefs (they are orthodox Jews who eat kosher and observe the Shabbat, meaning she cannot not compete or use electricity on the Sabbath, among other things.) Along the way Kutin celebrates her bat mitzvah (a coming-of-age ceremony in the Jewish religion) and her brother, Ari makes the first of a few funny cameos.

Kutin is ultimately a rather complex character. She is competitive and driven to achieve great things at her sport but she is also a child who can be quite shy. When she is faced with health issues she continues to train and stick to her strict diet and exercise regime. Her parents are supportive of their daughter without being too overbearing or show mum-like. In Supergirl Naomi faces her successes and failures head-on and proves to be quite an inspirational role model for us all.

Supergirl is not just a film for people interested in the world of competitive weightlifting. It’s an interesting, fly-on-the-wall documentary about a young girl coming of age in this dichotomous environment of male-dominated sport and orthodox religion. Kutin is ultimately an inspiration who defies the stereotypes and breaks the mould. This film is a celebration of her faith, identity, true grit and determination and is proof positive that from little things- big things grow.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Supergirl screens as part of the For Films Sake Festival on April 30th. For more information click HERE. It’s also screening as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival on April 27th. For more details head HERE.

To find out more about the film, head to its official website.