A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

2015, PG-13, 78 min. Directed by Sara Hirsh Bordo.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 25, 2015

You’ve probably noticed, and I know I’m stating the obvious here, but the Internet can be an incredibly cruel place. Anonymity tends to bring out the worst in people (looking at you, YouTube commenters), and it seems a week doesn’t pass without some tragic tale of online bullying or harassment resulting in some pointless violence or suicide. Austinite Lizzie Velasquez discovered this inescapable trend when she logged on to the popular video-hosting site at age 17 to discover footage of her accompanied by the title, “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” The comments, you can imagine, were the worst. But Velasquez, who suffers from a rare syndrome that has left her blind in one eye, unable to gain weight, and subject to endless prodding and tests, turned the whole thing around by using her story to shine a spotlight on bullying. Her YouTube channel took off (currently hovering at just under 500,000 subscribers), her TED Talk went viral, and suddenly Velasquez was transformed into an anti-bullying activist, traveling the globe and speaking to stadium crowds.

A Brave Heart documents Lizzie’s story from the beginning. Through home movies and interviews with her family, we learn of countless surgeries and procedures she had growing up as her doctors tried to figure out what she is suffering from (an on-camera visit to a specialist late in the film explains some of it). But while the film is ostensibly Lizzie’s story, the larger takeaway is how this lithe, articulate, and wonderfully soulful person took a potentially crippling moment and fashioned it into a weapon against intolerance. As we watch Lizzie transform herself into an international activist, globe-trot to summits, meet with fans around the world (hey, there’s Hillary Clinton!), and navigate her health issues, one can’t help but feel inspired and humbled against the onslaught of negativity that routinely (and casually) seeps into our daily perspectives. A life-affirming doc if ever there was one, A Brave Heart is a litmus test for gauging compassion, one I would recommend everyone take immediately.

See "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story," March 13, for our SXSW interview with the filmmakers.

Sara Bordo and Lizzie Velasquez will be in attendance following the 7pm screening on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at Violet Crown Cinema.

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A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, Sara Hirsh Bordo

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