By Dirk Sonniksen | August 23, 2010
Director: Niko von Glasow
Writer(s): Andrew Emerson, Kiki von Glasow, Niko von Glasow
Nobody’s Perfect follows Niko von Glasow as he attempts to bring to light the plight of the victims of the drug Thalidomide, a sedative introduced in the 50s, which caused birth defects when given to pregnant women. The documentary focuses on von Glosow’s project, a nude calendar featuring “Thalidomides,” the drug’s victims who have unusually short arms and/or legs. Thalidomide was removed from the market soon after (though it would be revived for other medicinal purposes), but not before affecting ten to twenty thousand lives.
Director Niko von Glasow’s calendar of nudes is really only a minute aspect of a fascinating, informative, and emotional documentary. Himself a victim of Thalidomide, von Glasow journeys into the German community and beyond searching for the tales of other victims of Thalidomide, stories that begin to take shape in candid interviews and intimate discussions with friends. We begin to see cracks in the façade of many as they tell of their thoughts of suicide, but these stories are balanced nicely by an optimistic theme centered on a group of individuals who have overcome extreme obstacles and prejudice to carve out a niche for themselves in a society that is anything but accepting of those that are different.
In fact, one of the most effective elements of Nobody’s Perfect is its ability to show the nature of prejudice and the peculiar take many in society show toward something that is unfamiliar to them. One of the most gratifying and, at the same time, painful moments in the film is the actual unveiling of the calendar. Niko von Glasow is really putting the calendar’s viewers on display, giving the audience a glimpse into their mindset, with emotions that range from positive to extremely reactionary.
In addition to the stories of individuals in the film, we are also privy to their thoughts on the drug company that manufactured Thalidomide. Rather than some rehashing of a Wikipedia article, we are given each individual’s particular thoughts about the hardships endured during the battle to recover some sort of settlement from Grünenthal, the manufacturer of the drug. Indeed, though it has been decades since Thalidomide was found to have caused birth defects, victims are still trying to force Grünenthal to own up to its role, with no success.
Niko von Glasow created a stellar film with Nobody’s Perfect. The film runs the emotional gamut, and even delves a bit into the erotic. It is indeed von Glasgow’s choice of expression that is most revealing, as he seems to be pushing the envelope on what is acceptable in a world that is quickly becoming less accepting, even though we are constantly being told otherwise.
Creating a litmus test of sorts for his audience, von Glasow formed a perfect pairing: a group of individuals pushed to the fringes of their respective communities but still managing to lead fulfilling lives. At the same time, members of that group are encouraged to bare all, not only to bring about awareness, but also to overcome their own demons. This process appears to have a curative effect, not only for the individuals being photographed, but perhaps for a society that must see beyond their own prejudice.