Director: Katharina Otto
Screenwriters: Katharina Otto

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Aspiring to be a supermodel has replaced the age-old dream of becoming an actress as the most coveted career among teenage girls around the world. Supermodels today enjoy revered celebrity status; Cindy, Naomi, and Kate are known by first name alone. Intrigued by this fascination, filmmaker Katharina Otto traverses the globe, following four young models on the verge of capturing their dreams and becoming superstars.

These four hopefuls are plucked from their homes and families and thrust into an adult world with little guidance. They are sent to various international markets to establish themselves, where they are expected to navigate strange cities completely on their own. Agencies make it painstakingly clear the girls must take full responsibility for their potential success. Balanced with interviews with established models such as Lauren Hutton, Elle MacPherson, and Claudia Schiffer, Beautopia contrasts the sobering reality of the business of beauty with its false promises, competition, and rejection to the fairy tale images in the young models’ heads.
Otto examines the modeling world from the inside, gaining entry to the most private situations: from agents discussing models’ traits on a go-see to a fitting for a Paris runway show. The glamour the public sees on the printed page is a far cry from life behind the scenes. Otto has crafted a suspenseful journey of lost innocence, filled with hope and anguish. Where Unzipped led us behind the curtain of the fashion industry, Beautopia gets beneath the perfect skin of the modeling world.

Katharina Otto, Director
Born in Hamburg, Germany, Katharina Otto has written, directed, and produced The Need for Speed, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, starring Mira Sorvino and Malcolm McDowell, and now Beautopia. She has also written, directed, and produced two 16-mm shorts, Wolves in White Linen and David, and directed the documentary Coming Home for German television. Otto received both her BA in political science and philosophy and her MFA in film from Columbia University.

Screening Details

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