by Paul Dearing
Jackson Free Press
February 2, 2005
Intense, humbling attention is given to the day-to-day lives of little people in a new documentary from independent filmmaker and Stanford University professor Jan Krawitz. At once heartbreaking, humorous, inspirational and educational, the ironically titled “Big Enough” follows the histories of several American dwarfs from the 1980s to today. The movie will be screened in the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex at Millsaps College Monday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Southern Circuit Film Series tour of independent films.
“Big Enough,” like many of cinema’s most successful documentaries, is a picture that challenges stereotypes. The film (and the “little people” in it) defies those content to stare at or judge people on the basis of their size (or anyone at a physical disadvantage, though no one in this film would consider themselves such). Krawitz, her camera lens not unlike a staring eye itself, uses footage from her 1982 film “Little People” and present-day interviews and updates to reveal her subjects’ experiences and attitudes. Among the individuals examined in the film are Karla, a dwarf with an average-height husband, Ron and Sharon, whose two children are also dwarfs, and Len, an older dwarf who worked to build the little people community in the ‘80s.
It is impossible for an average-sized viewer to experience “Big Enough” without feeling a gradual dissolution of ego (at least for the hour of running time). Most personal trials and tribulations feel simply insignificant compared to the myriad of challenges Krawitz captures. Ironically, many of the dwarfs express acceptance, even gratitude, when asked about their size (in one memorable interview, a dwarf of Indian descent, believing in reincarnation, states that she probably chose a more challenging existence after being average sized in a former life). The result is a humbling experience, tinged with sadness yet boldly uplifting.
At the same time, “Big Enough” does not force its issues upon its audience. Krawitz has crafted an intimate, multi-faceted film that is likely to mean different things to different viewers (some could view it as a call to action for improved government funding and medical research for those afflicted by dwarfism, others might see in it a criticism of how little people are portrayed in film, television and other media). The movie is best viewed, of course, as a seven-pronged character study; in fact, the major fault of “Big Enough” is that its brevity (53 minutes) does not allow for more time with Krawitz’s subjects.
The increasingly popular documentary genre, when done properly, examines commonplace things in uncommon ways. “Big Enough,” which makes the case that height does not limit happiness, is that superior type that takes interesting people and situations and uses them to raise issues and stimulate viewers. In the interview from which Krawitz takes the film’s title, a dwarf expresses his childhood desire to be ‘big enough’ to do the things that those around him could do. In revealing how he (and those like him) reconciled such wishes, in showing how they navigate society and experience the world, Krawitz achieves the greatest of feats: she teaches the rest of us about ourselves.