Movie Review: Tribute to Joseph Pilates

Title: Tribute to Joseph Pilates – The Movie (2016)
Produced by: The Voll Pilates Group and Glaucia Adriana
Directed by: Glaucia Adriana                                                                                      Narration written and performed by: Chuck Rapoport
Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes
English only, subtitles in other languages planned for future releases.
Available: Only thru Vimeo for two day rental ($19.99) or purchase as a download ($39.99).

Reviewed by: Cathy Barker Strack

Spoiler Alert! I give this movie two thumbs up. It’s a movie that does justice to the life and work of Joseph Pilates. Glaucia Adriana and her team spent several years working to tell this story by travelling countless miles and conducting many, many interviews with well-known teachers and personalities in the Pilates community. Glaucia was frustrated by the lack of understanding around the world of who Joseph Pilates was and the richness of his work. She and her team decided a movie would be the best way to catch people’s attention. They tried to remain neutral and sought out representatives from many different “schools” of Pilates. Unfortunately, not everyone that was sought out was able or willing to participate, but an honest attempt was made.

Joseph Pilates story and personality are first revealed through historical information as shared by Eva Rincke. The viewer is treated to pictures and film footage of Joseph Pilates teaching his work. A local expert, from the German town that Joe was born in, reveals the documents he has uncovered about the Pilates family and some of their activities. As the viewer travels through the time line of Joseph Pilates’ life, new insights are shared, along with new opinions. For example, Eva Rincke points out that while Joe was interned at the Isle of Man, he had the time to work on his system of exercise that he might not have had while otherwise trying to live and work andraise a family.

A significant portion of screen time is given to notable teachers in the Pilates community, including several of the First Generation teachers or Elders. This includes Mary Bowen and Lolita San Miguel. For those Elders that have passed on or were unavailable (Mary Pilates), their representatives spoke on their behalf. They represented Romana Kryzanowska, Carola Trier, Eve Gentry, Kathy Grant and Mary Pilates, to name a few. These people shared their experiences and thoughts about who Joseph Pilates was to them and what his work means to the world. It was very entertaining to listen to their thoughts on Pilates.

Other highlights during the movie are an interview with Mari Winsor who is battling ALS. She is using her condition and Pilates training to bring awareness and help  new groups of people with neurological disorders. Chuck IC Rapoport tells his story of spending a day in the studio with Joseph Pilates and the photographs that have become world famous in the Pilates community. And finally, Friedman and Eisen clarify and explain how they developed their Pilates Principles to help organize the vast amounts of information they were taught when learning the Pilates method by Romana. Several other teachers and their stories are featured and presented in an informative and interesting manner.

The viewer is given a brief and humorous break when those being interviewed are asked to describe Joseph Pilates using only one word. Interviewees were also asked “If Joe were alive…what would you ask him?” Think about your answer and I will share mine at the end of this review.

In the interest of making this a balanced review, I do take issue with several points made in the movie. And I qualify these with the fact that I have spent the past 6 years researching the life of Romana, Joseph Pilates and the Elders (those that are both known and unknown to many in the community). First, while Pilates did work alone many, many people helped him including his brother Fred, more nieces than anyone knows about, studio helpers including Hannah Sakmirda and most importantly, Clara! (Please, someone take up the cause of Clara’s biography, please!)
Second, if Joseph Pilates didn’t learn your name, maybe it’s because he wasn’t interested. But believe me, he knew his clients’ names, was at their weddings, and parties, and took pictures of them and their families. At Christmas time the studio Christmas tree was piled high with gifts for him (ok, mostly booze, but gifts nonetheless.) He travelled around the country showing up on their doorsteps to teach them exercises while they were on vacation and at summer cottages. He published lists of those he worked with and was proud of having them as clients/students.

My third and final issue is the claim that Joseph Pilates died a bitter man; that his work wasn’t appreciated during his lifetime. I would offer that maybe he was bitter because he was dying, didn’t feel well and couldn’t continue his work. He was much appreciated and very well-known to many throughout his lifetime.
I highly recommend this movie to all Pilates enthusiasts. It is well done and very informative.
So, what would I ask Joseph Pilates if he were alive? I would ask him to give me a workout and then take him to McSorelys for a dark beer.

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