Log In   ·   Become A Member

INTERVIEW: "Supergirl" Director Jessie Auritt On Teen Powerlifting Sensation Naomi Kutin's Incredible Story

Nicole Barylski

Naomi chats with a fellow competitor during a powerlifting competition. (Courtesy Photo)

"Supergirl" Naomi Kutin started defying expectations at the age of nine, when against all odds, she set a powerlifting world record, and beat women that were over 20 years older than her along the way. Filmmaker Jessie Auritt documents Naomi's extraordinary coming-of-age story in Supergirl, which will make its World Premiere at the 2016 Hamptons International Film Festival. Hamptons.com spoke with Auritt about the pre-teen's incredible journey, watching someone grow up in the spotlight, and more.

When did you first hear about Naomi Kutin?

JA: I came across an article on Naomi in January 2013 and was really fascinated - not just with this young girl, she had just broken a world record at 10-years-old, which is when the article was from. Not only was she beating woman who were three and four times her age - which was the first thing that really caught my attention, but the fact that she was Modern Orthodox really intrigued me. In the Orthodox tradition, typically women have traditional gender roles and dress codes and here she was competing in this male dominated sport. So, I was really intrigued with that and knew that there was a deeper story there and wanted to meet this young girl and find out what her life was like on a daily basis and really what laid ahead of her. So I reached out to the family, I guess in February 2013, and we discussed the filming and started shooting that spring.

When you approached the family about the documentary, what was their reaction?

JA: At first, I think that they were intrigued and excited, and also somewhat cautious because it is their young daughter. But, they had also been in the press quite a bit. She started powerlifting when she was eight-years-old and pretty much right off the bat after her first contest was in the local papers and then all the way up to some national television shows - so they were no strangers to the media and being in the public spotlight. After we discussed some things, they were pretty much on board right away and excited to start that process.

Naomi was just nine-years-old when she broke a powerlifting world record. (Courtesy Photo)

How long did filming take?

JA: We filmed over the course of about three years. From the time Naomi was 11, when we first started filming, up to when she was 14.

How did you decide the balance between Naomi's personal life and lifting to include?

JA: On the outside, this young girl powerlifting is obviously very impressive, and that was what the media coverage had been about. While that was interesting to me, I was much more interested in digging deeper and seeing what was really going on here with Naomi and her family. Right off the bat, I wasn't so much interested in making a film about powerlifting - it was more the context for the background of this young girl's coming-of-age story. The powerlifting is definitely a huge part of the film, and the film leads up to a big contest - that's obviously a huge part of her life. The film is really much more about Naomi and her personal development, her relationship with her parents and her brother, and her figuring out who she really is in this world. As a kid, being in the spotlight at such a young age, she's been growing and figuring out who she is in the public spotlight - I was much more interested in what that was like for a young girl. Obviously adolescence is really hard and awkward for everyone, so to go through that in the public spotlight with Facebook and YouTube, you're susceptible to the public's criticism on a daily basis. While there's a lot of powerlifting in the film, it's really more about a young girl and her family trying to pursue her dreams, really like any other typical young girl.

Nowadays, social media can have a powerful impact on public figures, especially since Naomi is so young. Why did you decide to include some of the criticism she receives and her reactions to the negative feedback?

JA: I think that's something that's really real, not just for young people, but for everyone. I didn't realize, until we were already into filming, that those types of comments existed. I found it shocking, personally. When I saw it, I was like, "How could someone say this about this young girl? They have no right to make this judgment." A lot of these people, the Internet trolls, you really can't listen to them. But, I didn't want to shy away from it. It's real life and it's what she's going through. I wanted to show, while, for the most part, she is positively received and people are supportive of her, there is a contingent of people that - there are haters out there and that's a part of life. I think in this modern day and age, growing up is, not even if you're a star athlete or child actor, just growing up in the age of social media is so much harder. And I was interested in exploring that deeper, with cyberbullying and the effects that it can have. What really impressed me about Naomi is while I was really shocked and appalled, she, for her age, really takes it in stride and still sees more of the positive side. I think it's really an inspiration for other young people who might be dealing with cyberbullying to see that you don't have to listen to haters; you can keep doing what you love to do and pursue your dreams.

Supergirl documents Naomi's incredible journey. (Courtesy Photo)

Religion plays a big role in the film. Was the family at all hesitant to film at church, Naomi's bat mitzvah or her school?

JA: No, not really. There were some restrictions, being that the family is Orthodox Jewish they observe the Sabbath, which is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. We were absolutely not allowed to film during those 25 hours, which we respected. But, other than that, we were very well received in the family's community and their synagogue and in their schools. Everyone was very supportive of Naomi and her family, and also the film and the documentary as a whole, and they're very excited to see it because I think pretty much everyone in their local community had known about the film for the three plus years it's been in the making. So, I think we have some people from the community actually coming up to the Hamptons for the world premiere and they're very excited to see it.

The film follows Naomi during such an important time in a youth's life. Were you impressed with Naomi's growth as a person as filming progressed?

JA: Absolutely. I definitely was. I went through that time myself, but, I don't have kids so I've never really experienced watching someone grow over the course of three years, and particularly during that time. That was one of the things initially that when I read about her I was excited to film over the course of those three years because I know how much someone changes and grows during that period. I was really interested in seeing how that would unfold. It was amazing to see firsthand and I think the film really captures that - from the beginning to the end you see not just a drastic physical transformation but really a transformation of her becoming a young woman, being more confident in herself and articulate and well spoken. It blew my mind to watch.

Supergirl will screen during the Hamptons International Film Festival on Sunday, October 9th at 2 p.m. at East Hampton UA (30 Main Street, East Hampton) and Monday, October 10th at 2:30 p.m. at East Hampton UA. Tickets are $15.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

Related Articles:

Be the first to comment on this article. (Just fill out the form below)

Submit Your Comment

Please note, you are not currently logged in. Your comment will be submitted as a guest.
To submit your comment as a member, please click here.
Your Name:
* Comments will be reviewed and posted in a timely fashion
* All fields are required
What color is the sky?
(For spam prevention, thanks)
East End Tick Control
The East End's only New York State licensed dedicated tick and mosquito control specialists!

Hamptons Carpet One Floor & Home
We pay less,and so do you.With over 1,000 stores in our buying group, we can get the lowest prices from the best flooring manufacturers — and pass the savings on to you.Visit our other locations: Hamptons Carpet One Floor & Home, 675 North Sea Road,Southampton, NY 11968

Southampton Masonry-Visiting the Southampton or the Wainscott locations is an exciting experience.
Southampton Masonry has been serving Long Island's masonry and tile needs since 1975. Delivering quality products from Manhattan to Montauk for over three decades. The company's continued success is due primarily to their number one priority: customer satisfaction, with a promise of prompt and courteous service from the professional, knowledgeable staff. Southampton Masonry has the largest inventory on the east end. As direct importers they can offer a large variety of the finest quality products at the most competitive pricing for both your interior and exterior projects.

CP Complete- Landscape Design & Construction
Paul Guillo And Chris Hall Two Of The Most Respected Names In The Community Together, they are partners in CP Complete. They bring their years of experience and integrity to creating and renovating luxury backyards.

Hamptons luxury real estate specialist for 33 years, Andrea Ackerman offers outstanding expertise in the field.
Hamptons luxury real estate specialist for 34 years, Andrea Ackerman offers outstanding expertise in the field. Trusted, experienced and successful, Andrea has solidified herself as the go-to broker of the Hamptons and a wholehearted advocate for her clients. A pioneer in the real estate industry on the East End of Long Island, she is driven by her passion for the business. Andrea is based in the Bridgehampton office of Brown Harris Stevens as a licensed real estate associate broker and consultant. Formerly, a principal partner and Senior Director at Brown Harris Stevens, Andrea now assists in developing their corporate strategy for the Hamptons region, advising other brokers and sales associates, as well as being one of the top producers and listors.

Southrifty Drug 54 Jagger Lane, Southampton Village
Southrifty Drug is a small, neighborhood pharmacy with limited shelf space, and we have to be very selective about which over-the-counter items we carry. As a result you'll find a no nonsense concentration of very effective, high quality and useful products on our shelves. In this new section, we feature a number of these products that we feel are especially worthy of your consideration.

Burner Law Group, P.C.
Burner Law Group, P.C. are full service elder law attorneys concentrating in the areas of Estate Planning, Trust and Estate Administration and Litigation, Special Needs Planning, Guardianship and Elder Law. Offices in East Setauket‚ NY, Westhampton Beach, NY, and New York, NY.

Calissa is Mykonos in the Hamptons.
Our menu focuses on seafood and Greek dishes such as salt baked fish, seafood pasta and Mediterranean mezze. Our wine list has been awarded The Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator and boasts the largest selection of rosé in the Hamptons. The name Calissa is derived from the brightest constellation in the summer sky.Our sister restaurants in New York are Amali and Bar Marseille, opening 2020 in the Rockaways. Calissa offers private dining spaces for groups from 10 to 300 people. To plan your next wedding, corporate event or gathering, please email events@calissahamptons.com. 1020 MONTAUK HIGHWAY, WATER MILL

Suburban Propane in Bridgehampton, New York has been serving proudly supporting our community for 90 years.
Suburban Propane has been serving the energy needs for home owners and business in the Hampton’s for decades. We offer friendly service by local professionals you know and trust, plus the peace of mind that comes from knowing we are among the leaders in the industry for safety.

WordHampton Public Relations
We build client revenues and reputations. Our reputation is built on delivering a strong media presence and, as a result, demand for our clients' offerings, resulting in a positive impact on sales. Successful campaigns start with understanding the goals of our clients and developing a customized strategy that will achieve those objectives.

SGF Acupuncture, PLLC. Is owned and operated By Sandra Geehreng Foster.
SGF Acupuncture, PLLC. Is owned and operated By Sandra Geehreng Foster. Her treatments are based on five element acupuncture. She also offers Far Infrared Sauna treatments. PEMF cellular excerise.

Spanish Maven was founded by Marisa Ramirez.
Spanish Maven was founded by Marisa Ramirez after she experienced learning English as a second language upon relocating to New York.

Big Brunch Box-delivered in The Hamptons
BIG BRUNCH BOX. Your favorite gourmet brunch foods for weekend eating with friends and family, ordered with ease and conveniently dropped at your doorstep in The Hamptons every Friday with fanatical attention to quality.

Long Island Cares, Inc.
While distributing nutritious food to our Nassau and Suffolk County neighbors is the heart of Long Island Cares, we’re more than just a food bank. We’re one of the region’s most comprehensive hunger assistance organizations, and there are many other ways we can help you and your loved ones.