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Not In Vain: We review brand new documentary from Natalie Cutler - partner of Wolves' Danny Batth

Entertainment | Published:

There's a moment in Not in Vain - the documentary debut film from Natalie Cutler - that takes your breath away.

Jaime-Lee Faulkner is talking about what an honour it is to have to won the Miss Universe Great Britain crown.

The screen then fades to black. In Jaime-Lee's place comes a disfigured victim of an acid attack.

The extreme and shocking contrast in what we perceive physical beauty to be could never be more stark - and this is at the heart of Not in Vain's thought-provoking message.

Natalie is a former Miss Universe GB contestant herself and it's for this reason she was entrusted with producing the first ever behind-the-scenes look at the competition (Channel 4 were turned down).

The first half of this debut, which comes in at just under an hour in length, follows a batch of contestants competing in the 2016 pageant. There are a couple of surprises in store (first runner-up Christina is a pharmacology graduate and a STEM ambassador) which show a different side to a competition that many will dismiss as a glorified vanity project.

Not in Vain attempts to challenge that notion and, in the main, succeeds. The concept of celebrating beauty is at the competition's heart, which some will always find distasteful, but where the film finds its heart is in the good that Miss Universe GB does in terms of its charity work.

Which leads to Not in Vain's very different second half in India. Or more specifically to the Stop Acid Attacks foundation and its 'Sheroes' cafe where victims - or survivors, as the film nicely terms it - of acid attacks find a refuge and a platform from which to speak out and highlight their horrifying experiences.

Jaime-Lee travels there as part of her duties as the pageant winner. The stories revealed by these survivors, who were often punished for their beauty simply because they said no to men, are truly heart-rending.

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The film comes full circle at this point, contrasting how beauty is viewed in two very different societies. Its message powerful.

Beautifully shot, with juxtaposing camera angles and a fitting soundtrack, Not in Vain is an accomplished debut that highlights an important issue while also giving a non-judgemental and rare glimpse into the beauty pageant scene.

Its only fault is it leaves you wanting more.

By Tim Spiers

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