The much discussed, moving little documentary “On Beauty” is hitting the Royal Theater in West Los Angeles on July 24th. After that, it will be headed to New York.

Per the studio:

"On Beauty" poster

A documentary Film by Jonna Rudnick

LOS ANGELES & NEW YORK – Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself) announced the forthcoming theatrical release of On Beauty the remarkable, award-winning short subject documentary from Emmy-nominated director Joanna Rudnick that focuses on a fashion-photographer who is redefining beauty by focusing his lens on people with visible genetic conditions.

On Beauty will open in Los Angeles on Friday, July 24 at the Laemmle’s Royal Theatre (West Los Angeles). And it will open in New York on Friday, July 31 at Cinema Village.

On Beauty is a film about about challenging norms and redefining beauty. On Beauty follows fashion photographer Rick Guidotti (whose clients have included Revlon, L’Oréal, Marie ClaireElle, GQ and People), who left the fashion world when he grew frustrated with having to work within the restrictive parameters of the industry’s standard of beauty. After a chance encounter with a young woman who had the genetic condition albinism, Rick re-focused his lens and uses it to challenge convention and redefine beauty with the help of two extraordinary women.

At the center of On Beauty are two of Rick’s photo subjects: Sarah Kanney and Jayne Waithera. Sarah left public school for home school in eighth grade because she was bullied so harshly for the Sturge-Weber birthmark on her face. Jayne lives in Eastern Africa where people with albinism are highly discriminated against and are sometimes even killed for their body parts. Rick’s photos challenge both mainstream media’s narrow scope of beauty as well as the dehumanizing black-bar convention of medical textbooks. On Beauty is part of his movement.

Next month Jayne Waithera will be in Washington, DC to participate in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and meet with President Obama at the White House. She is currently a resident at University of California – Berkeley as part of YALI.

The San Francisco-based Rudnick has focused on telling stories that impact on national conversations. Her personal film In the Family about the BRCA genetic test for Breast and Ovarian Cancer, inspired a movement that led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling against gene patenting. The Emmy-nominated film had its national broadcast debut on POV and has been distributed by First Run Features. During the making of On Beauty, Rudnick battled breast cancer and had a bilateral mastectomy.

During the film’s festival run, Rick Guidotti had the cameras turned on him and received a one-of-a-kind mock film poster.

PRAISE & AWARDS FOR “ON BEAUTY”’s Matt Fagerholm called the film “The latest jewel in the crown of Kartemquin Films” and wrote that “All societally imposed stigmas evaporate under Guidotti’s nurturing, tirelessly exuberant gaze. Watching these girls grow comfortable in their own skin is a joy to behold. ‘On Beauty’ is, quite simply, a masterful example of how cinema can serve as a humanizing force in the world. We need films like this. We can’t afford to lose them.”

On Beauty has won top awards and recognitions at Sebastopol Film Festival (Audience Award for Best Short and Best of the Fest), Cleveland International Film Festival (Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short), Geneva Film Festival (Jury Award for Best Documentary Short) and Chicago International Film Festival (Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film). The film also had sold-out screenings at DOC NYC.


In addition to the many individuals Guidotti’s work has impacted on, the film focuses on his passionate work to get medical school books and medical publications to change how they photograph people with medical conditions. Rick’s photos challenge both mainstream media’s narrow scope of beauty and the dehumanizing black-bar convention of medical textbooks. “I can assure you that no one has ever walked into a doctor’s office… carrying a portable black bar,” says Rick Guidotti.

Guidotti’s Faces Redefining the Art of Medical Education project is working with the medical field to change the images of people with genetic abnormalities in medical books and literature. “We don’t need dehumanizing photos with black bars covering the individual’s eyes,” says Guidotti.

An On Beauty education initiative will focus on engaging young people and empowering them to advance the movement to redefine beauty.




Rick Guidotti, who, in my mind, is a prophet of our time. Rick has some incredible filter that cuts through all of the negativity, stigma, prejudice and isolation of difference. He gives us the space, permission and tools to see people as he sees them and how they want to be seen – whether you’re a supermodel, his first photos subjects, or a child with a genetic syndrome.

I first encountered Rick’s work at the Genetic Alliance conference in 2009. I was there screening my first film, “In the Family” (Kartemquin Films, POV – 2008). I spent the weekend speaking about my unseen genetic condition and was stuck by what it must be like to live with a genetic change that was visible to the rest of the world. How are you treated differently? What are the consequences? What are the solutions? As many of us are, when I have encountered photography of people with genetic syndromes, my association was dehumanizing black-bar photographs that isolate and highlight difference. Rick’s photography was an exact affront to that imagery, allowing people to have names, larger-than-life personalities and identities outside of one defining label.

I asked Rick if I could follow him around for a documentary and it turned into a five-year journey from Las Vegas to Kenya and places in between. The image that stands out to me is Judy Kanney’s response to seeing her daughter Sarah Kanney, who has Sturge-Webber Syndrome, photographed by Rick for the first time – a smile and sense of pride I’d never witnessed before. And seeing the resulting poise straighten Sarah’s posture as she liked out with confidence addressing a full auditorium of high school students, after leaving high school for homeschooling because of bullying. I wish we could all see like Rick. As Rick’s friend the prominent fashion designer Ralph Rucci said, Rick is like an anthropologist way ahead of his time. Let’s catch up to him!


A collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society, in 2016 Kartemquin will celebrate 50 years of sparking democracy through documentary. Their films, such as Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, and The Trials of Muhammad Ali, have won numerous awards and left a lasting impact on millions of viewers. A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies, and for its innovative media arts community programs. Their recent films include Steve James’ Life Itself; Usama Alshaibi’s American Arab; Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare’s The Homestretch; Joanna Rudnick’s On Beauty; Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden’s Almost There; Brent Huffman’s Saving Mes Aynak; and Hard Earned, a six-hour series for Al Jazeera America. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago.


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