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Cinequest 2004:
Big Enough

When I was a kid, I had to watch a documentary every year, in class, to remind us of what it means to be different. It was called Little People and it was directed by Jan Krawitz. It was a great look at the lives of those folks who are short of stature.

Krawitz followed a bunch of little people through their lives and talked with them at the national convention for the Little People of America. It was made in 1981 and it played everywhere from PBS to just about every school where a dwarf happened to be attending. After twenty years, Krawitz returns to her subjects in the follow-up Big Enough.

Cutting between footage from Little People and follow-up interviews with those who appeared in the original, we see the characters grow. From young children to married adults, from newlyweds to long-time parents, everyone who is profiled has changed in so many ways. There is a feeling that this is a sort of specialized version of Michael Apted's 7-Up series, but it's not quite as entertaining, and it's far more eye-opening.

First thing, there are no actors profiled. While characters like Billy Barty and Warwick Davis have been documented for years, the view of the less-known average everyday little person is far more interesting. We see them doing things that we do every day, but it's obviously far harder for them than for us. There is a nice juxtaposition between two scenes of dinner being made. First we see our central character, Michael, and his wife using regular-sized kitchen stuffs, which require them to use a stepstool and a long grabber. Then we are treated to the Six foot plus son of a pair of little people making chocolate-dipped bananas on a small stove. There isn't a lot of this sort of play off the scenes, but the few times Krawitz tries it, it works very well. Too many documentarians over-do this technique, but Krawitz has a couple of decades of experience.

The strongest segments are those that deal with the medical issues that accompany most forms of dwarfism. It seems that every one of the people profiled has one, or many, surgeries during some point of the documentary process. There is a young girl who is glowing with energy from the get-go, the daughter of one of the original people featured in Little People, and she is in a wheelchair recovering from leg-straightening surgery. It's almost heartbreaking to watch her, a girl who is shown in photos less than a year old as a cheerleader and on a camp out, stuck in a wheelchair.

A fair amount of the doc deals with the relationships between those documented in Little People and those that they have grown to love. One, originally shown as a sixteen year old, has married an average-sized man. Michael married another little person from India, which actually seems to make things more difficult. The couple that was together in the original is still together and have two children, a normal-sized son and a daughter with dwarfism. These stories are strong, and the people come off very well.

I was expecting a more entertaining doc, not knowing that Krawitz had made Little People going into the screening, but what I got was a better film. While Little People may seem a tad dated, Big Enough does a better job of setting up the issues of dwarfism today. There was a scene talking about geneticists and how they are finding new ways of recognizing dwarfism. It's only skimmed, but the way we get to experience the thoughts of the characters actually speak far louder than having a long segment with them would have.

I'll easily recommend Big Enough, but don't rent it on a Saturday night expecting to gobble down some popcorn and riff off it. Instead, get it on a Tuesday, call the family and watch as life unfolds.

Chris Garcia

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