Self-Reflection Screened At Sundance

Dove set out to widen the definition of beauty 10 years ago, and have modernized their motive over time. Continuing with the motion of their “#beautyis” campaign, Dove made a way for mothers and daughters to join the conversation.

New Paltz alumnae and producer Sharon Liese debuted the Dove short film “Selfie” at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January.

“Selfie” strives to “change and redefine what beauty is,” photographer Michelle Crook said in the film, which challenges teenage girls and their mothers to “take a risk to redefine beauty” by taking photos of themselves which highlight and incorporate their self-image-related insecurities.

The film uncovered that the mothers had just as much insecurity about their looks as their daughters, but saw themselves through a different lens as they took photos of themselves. Later on, they were invited to a gallery in which their selfies were displayed and reviewed by each other.

“When I was [studying] in New Paltz, you didn’t have control of what images were taken of you,” Liese said. “[Through the film] we looked at the use of selfies as how young people and anyone can have this control literally in their hands.”

According to Liese, Dove and the Sundance Institute invited 60 filmmakers to submit a seven-minute film about how women can redefine beauty through social media. Liese worked with Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Cynthia Wade on the film’s concept and production.

Between the three-minute-long commercial and the full-length version, “Selfie” has accumulated more than five million views on YouTube.

Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Lynn Spangler, former chair and current professor in the Communication and Media Department, said she loves the short-film’s focus on the mother and daughter relationship.

“The film shows the power mothers have to shape their daughters’ perception of beauty,” Spangler said. “‘Selfie’ is interesting because it focuses on these women’s  flaws in a loving and accepting way. It also shows it’s natural to not wear makeup, but that it’s also natural to have a family of mixed race.”

Spangler also said that the film’s hits keep coming, and that it’s “fabulous” that Liese’s film was featured at the festival.

Although the Sundance Film Festival was Liese’s first, said she has done a lot of work with television, and that the only difference between a film festival and working with a screen is the element of a live audience.

Liese has worked on several television networks including Investigation Discovery, MTV, PBS, Lifetime and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Liese also created “High School Confidential,” a Gracie Award-winning WeTV series that followed freshmen girls’ lives up until their senior year.

Liese attended New Paltz in the ‘70s and studied communications and media, taking communication classes as a way to narrow down her interest. After attending a study abroad program in Copenhagen during her second year, Liese decided she wanted to attend Albany, which was closer to her home in Saratoga Springs, but Liese’s interest in media remained constant.

“It took me several years to realize my passion was and is storytelling,” Liese said. “As a documentary filmmaker, storytelling is the most exhilarating workout there is. Documenting authentic human experiences…it’s definitely a passion worth following.”