“You are a liar and a fraud.” –Anonymous

In what context would the above quote be acceptable to say to a complete stranger? What could the motivation be behind such a scathing criticism?  The quote is among many that Mirna Valerio reads aloud at the beginning of the short documentary film The Mirnavator.  Director Sarah Menzies centers her narrative around Mirna who lives her life as a teacher, writer, mother, and outdoor runner.  The Mirnivator, one of the short original mini-docs featured at the 2018 Mountainfilm Film Festival, perfectly exemplifies themes of humility, perseverance, and inspiration.

A graphic insert of the email she received insulting her body and running style

Menzies originally sought Mirna out to tell the story of a black woman who was seemingly an outlier at ultra-running competitions.  After meeting her and documenting the passion that Mirna embraced in endurance running, Menzies shifts her narrative to when Mirna she received a hate e-mail from an internet troll.  The email attacked her weight, body size, and running style.  While the fat-shaming was hurtful, it didn’t slow “the Mirnavator.”  Despite the negative feedback, Mirna enjoys and succeeds at what she loves.

Menzies employs all the aspects you’d imagine from an inspirational tale: upbeat music, dazzling b-roll, informational graphics, and charming interview footage.  Tied together by sharp editing, The Mirnavator works well as a slice-of-life story that inspires myself and others to not let detractors prevent you from meeting your goals and living your life.  Documentaries oftentimes leave an audience with a call to action, and it seems that in this film doing what you love and treating others with kindness and respect are what both the director and her subject aim to do.  Mirna was an outsider when she first began running 5ks, 10ks, and marathons, but the friendships she made along the way, accompanied by her indomitable attitude, soon made her a shining star in that arena.

Mirna Valerio proves that size does not matter.

After the film viewing, a Q&A session with director Sarah Menzies and her editor fleshed out their process of making the film, and where Mirna is at in her career as a runner, teacher, and motivator.  They mentioned that they were tempted to write their own strongly-worded email to the man who tried to bring Mirna’s spirit down, but Menzies said they resisted the temptation. Perhaps the wisdom and grace that Mirna possesses has already been absorbed by the filmmakers who spent months with her.

I can speak for myself after seeing her story that positivity and ambition can incur needless hate.  Near the end of the film, Mirna comments on the situation that could have dragged her down, as she stopped mid-run and read the email in disbelief.  Seeing her brush it off and acknowledge her non-typical runners body and being confident in what her body can do is what inspirational docs are meant to convey, and The Mirnavator is an example of a film that engages and inspires.