At age 11, Kutin squatting 225 lbs to break the all-time world record in the 97 pound weightclass in 2013.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In Fairlawn, New Jersey, 14-year-old Naomi Kutin attends an all-girls Jewish high school, just as the other girls she’s grown up with in her community do. She’s petite, a little shy, and wears an inconspicuous grin. Little would you guess Kutin, just over 100 pounds (45 kg.), holds a world record in powerlifting.
Intrigued by Naomi’s story, documentary filmmaker Jessie Auritt reached out to Kutin’s family and thus begun the three-year project of filming Supergirl.
The film follows Kutin through her training in powerlifting and trying to maintain her record as “world’s strongest girl.”
It further shows her preparation for her bat mitzva, her transformation into a young woman.
“Not only is this young girl lifting three times her body weight, but she’s also a modern Orthodox Jew,” Auritt explains. “I was really fascinated how this young girl was able to lead a dual life and be part of these two different communities that seemed completely dichotomous.”
Inspired by her father, who is also a powerlifter, Kutin set her first world record at the age of nine. She currently competes in her weight category, going up against adult women.
At the start of filming, Auritt and her experienced crew got a better taste of the challenges of being part of these polarized communities. The crew was not allowed to film on Shabbat, nor could Kutin compete on Saturdays, when the majority of the competitions for her weight class take place. She often received special permission to compete on Sundays. The camera crew was able to work around her schedule to capture not only her lifting, but her normal life as a girl coming of age.
Kutin has a strong support system from her family and surrounding community, but she receives criticism over social media around her interest in weight lifting as a young girl.
“Everyone assumes she’s really big with rippling muscles, but she’s actually a pretty tiny girl. If you saw her you would just assume she’s just this regular little bubbly, happy-go-lucky girl. When she lifts, it’s like another side of her personality comes out. She transforms into this super girl and she’s yelling and grunting. You wouldn’t want to mess with her,” Auritt smiles.
In one scene we see Kutin dress shopping for her bat mitzva and in the next we see her squatting 250 pounds surrounded by hefty men.
The documentary shows her struggling with issues of adolescence, religious obligations and intensive training. It’s 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical, she explains. She breaks a lot of stereotypes – not only as a young female weightlifter but also as a modern Orthodox girl. Her story is one of strength and identity.
“I think both Orthodox Jews and female powerlifters in particular are in these outside groups where there are a lot of negative stereotypes. I’m hoping that this film will open up an understanding and a dialogue to breaking down these stereotypes, where you can see that not everything fits in just one box,” Auritt says.
Showing one who transcends stereotypes and at such a young age truly makes Kutin inspirational – a supergirl.
“I think the film really reaches people on a deep emotional level that can transcend negative stereotypes. It’s about relating to people as humans without judging what religion they ascribe to or what hobby or sport they participate in.”
Hoping to premiere Supergirl this summer, Auritt and her crew created a kickstart campaign. They need to raise $35,000 to finish the movie.
The campaign ends on April 3.To support Auritt and the production or to learn more about Kutin’s story, check out the kickstarter page or the Supergirl website: https://www.kickstarter.com/ projects/jessieauritt/supergirl or http://www.supergirldoc.com/