A film by Julie Wyman

2004 | 28 minutes | Color/BW | DVD | Order No. 05859


Julie Wyman’s ebullient experimental documentary intertwines the story of the Padded Lilies, a troupe of fat synchronized swimmers, Archimedes, the Greek mathematician obsessed with floating bodies, and the inventor of the “Drystroke Swimulator” to investigate, proclaim and celebrate the fact that fat floats!

As the Padded Lillies prepare for their appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", BUOYANT follows their rigorous training and strategizing as they promote their message of body-acceptance, fat-empowerment, and fitness at any size. A school-marmish voiceover moves on to tell the story of Archimedes, classical Greek mathematician and discoverer of pi, as he tackles one of his more difficult problems: how to measure the volume of an irregularly shaped object.

The final vignette, performed by Wyman herself, captures the trials and tribulations of the inventor at work on the “Drystroke Swimulator” (patent pending) -- a contraption designed to allow its user to swim outside of water. Giddy and irreverent, moving fluidly between color and black and white, video and film, handheld and locked-down camera styles, Buoyant draws attention to its own surface and leaves us with the exuberant possibility of a fat body that literally and culturally rises, like cream, to the top.


“An excellent, subversive rethinking of women’s fat…great viewing for anyone looking for new ways to think about how women occupy their bodies.”

Liza Johnson Filmmaker & Asst. Professor of Art, Williams College

“A radical message in a culture that demonizes fat, and especially fat women.”

Alexandra Stotts Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Oregon

“Levitates her subject with grace and wit. Carnivalesque, scientifically curious, and bubbly, the film finesses the tactile and visual pleasures of the buoyant body.”

Rachel Mayeri Media Studies/ Digital Media, Harvey Mudd College

“[Confronts] the viewer with the social perception of size, gravity, and beauty juxtaposed with the reality that these women, like all of us, ‘want to fly.’”

Lynnea Chapman King Butler Community College


  • Mill Valley Film Festival
  • Finger Lakes Envonmental Film Festival, Ithaca College
  • MIX: NY Lesbian And Gay Film Festival
  • Women With Vision Film Festival, Walker Art Center
  • Women Make Waves Film Festival, Taiwan
  • Camden International Film Festival
  • Out On Film – Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
  • Museum of Modern Art, Premieres Series


Julie Wyman

Julie Wyman is an award-winning filmmaker and a performer, writer, and professor. Her 2004 film, Buoyant, screened at MoMA New York, the Walker Arts Center, the La Jolla MoCA, and at festivals internationally. Her full-length documentary, A Boy Named Sue (2000) aired on Showtime, the MTV’s Logo TV, and screened at festivals internationally, winning the 2001 Sappho Award for Best Documentary and receiving a nomination for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s Media Award for Best Documentary. Wyman’s writing has been published in the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest and an edited volume entitled Scholarly Acts. Wyman is also a member of the artist/activist collective BLW whose performance work, has been featured at venues including the Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, Pilot Television, Chicago, and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford. Wyman holds an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. She is currently a Professor of Digital Filmmaking in the Cinema and Technocultural Studies Department at UC Davis.

Wyman’s most resent project, entitled Strong!, chronicles an athlete’s struggle to defend her champion status as her lifetime weightlifting career inches towards its inevitable end. STRONG! explores the contradiction of a body that is at once celebrated within the confines of her sport and shunned by mainstream culture. (8/14)


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