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There is something rather surreal in producing an entire documentary on the outside looking in. Taking on a subject that is not in your personal purview brings the kind of objectivity that is raw and revealing. This “fly on the wall” approach was what inspired me to direct my latest documentary, High On Heels. This film is a look into the shoe women come to experience. It highlights the good, the bad and the ugly of high-heeled shoes that include the sexy stiletto, the classy pump, the comfortable wedge and the exotic platform. As a conversational piece High On Heels leaves nothing short of this international fashion staple from its centuries-long history, its short-term pain threshold, long-term health effects, the symbolic role it plays in women’s lives and the business of fashion with designer heels and the stores that sell it.

The making of High On Heels began as a cool topic of style critique and fashion intrigue. But a couple of months into production, after a deep dive in research and conducting multiple interviews, the topic gradually evolved into a nuanced subject highlighting the varying experiences of women's lifestyle and personal expression. My top goal for this project was to document the nuance of what heels mean to women in their daily lives as well as in their social identity. Taking on this subtle accessory that we all take for granted was an ambitious pursuit because what began as a film about a mainstream, pop culture topic slowly progressed into something bigger and deeper. This prompted me to take on the subject in a careful, delicate and honest manner. The only way I knew how to do this was to aim for balance in insight and commentary, wielding my camera as a fly on the wall in the world and perspective of the women featured in this film.

In today’s era where opinions are spewing from everywhere necessary, voices often get stifled and sidelined. As a purist in the documentary film genre, I believe the strongest and most compelling documentaries include the kind of narratives that don’t come with moralizing narration, slanted story angles and sociopolitical agendas. As the writer and director, I wanted to take this item of the high-heeled shoe and examine it from A to Z. What does it represent? Where did it come from? How has it evolved over time? What are women's experiences with it? And, where is it going? I want viewers to go on a journey with me in examining this powerful yet subtle symbolism that high heels culturally represent. By learning a little more about women's everyday life experiences with heels, viewers will gain a greater appreciation for them and what it means to women both socially and psychologically.

I was confident from the get-go in my role as the curious onlooker-documentarian. As a straight man taking on a topic that exclusively represents a women’s fashion statement, it allowed me the vantage point to examine comprehensively high heel shoes. High On Heels literally speaks for itself. Meaning that the women interviewed were open, honest and frank about all things heels. Moreover, since sexuality and seeking attraction to the opposite sex plays a part in women wearing heels, men have a under-looked role in the ongoing evolution of high heels. After all, arguably the top three high heel shoe entrepreneurs in the past half-century have been men: Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Steve Madden. Plus, high heel shoes as both a fashion statement and symbolism of power and intrigue in Western society actually began with men centuries ago.

From concept to completion, my producer Lola Kayode and I journeyed on this documentary project in a 15-month trajectory. We researched, interviewed, logged and documented on camera the subjects that added to the cultural story of high heels. Who knew a high-heeled shoe could invoke such a rich historical, societal, medical and pop cultural discussion?

I learned a great deal on the "psychology of fashion" and how women mentally prepare themselves when getting dressed. I learned the value of style and its place in social representation and symbolic gestures. I learned the deep and expansive evolution of high heels from the Middle Ages through the 21st century. I also learned the underreported short-term and long-term health effects that come with wearing heels. I hope future audiences of this documentary also learn more about these high heel tidbits as well.


Watch the film, 'High On Heels', on Amazon Prime Video.

Follow director, Adelin Gasana, on Instagram at @DocuJourney_Productions, and Twitter and Facebook at @AdelinGasana