BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Sacha Polak’s Dirty God and the politics of authenticity

    Biernoff, Suzannah (2023) Sacha Polak’s Dirty God and the politics of authenticity. Cinema & Cie: International Film Studies Journal 22 (39), pp. 21-36. ISSN 2035-5270.

    49927.pdf - Published Version of Record
    Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

    Download (597kB) | Preview


    Dutch director Sacha Polak’s Dirty God (2019) is the first narrative film with a female lead whose scars are real, and arguably the first to tackle the assumption that scars (especially on a woman’s body) are shameful or tragic. Vicky Knight, who plays Jade, a young woman rebuilding her life after an acid attack, has talked about the revelation of seeing her body on screen after enduring years of abuse because of her appearance. Polak ‘saved my life’ she says, by enabling her to see her scarred body as beautiful, ‘a piece of art.’ Like any art form, film has the potential to be transformative, and in interviews both Knight and Polak have repeatedly spoken of their work in those terms. This article uses Dirty God to think about what is at stake in the dismantling of stereotypes and the reclamation of beauty – a goal shared by many disability rights campaigners. Made at a time when escalating cases of acid violence in London were making headlines around the world, Polak’s film prompts comparisons with Katie Piper’s Beautiful (2011) and other survivor memoirs. Privileging imperfection over repair and fragility over strength, it challenges existing portrayals of disfigurement and, in the process, offers a more radical understanding of beauty and authenticity.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Medical Humanities, Centre for
    Depositing User: Suzannah Biernoff
    Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2023 15:26
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:19


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item