This is a terrible — and terribly obvious — pun, but Peter Mauro’s engaging and, yes, inspiring documentary about dwarfs attending the National Convention of the Little People of America is, well, too short. The annual gathering, founded in 1957, according to the instantly recognizable Billy Barty, serves as an event where those afflicted with dwarfism can meet, hang out and party with their peers. “4 Foot Ten” follows three such folks. There’s Marty from LA, attending his first such convention since this year’s event is conveniently right next door in Santa Monica. Chalk it up to beginner’s luck, but Marty is delighted to discover that he’s one of the tallest attendees…and even more delighted when he meets Mary Ann. Connie hangs out with her girlfriends in her room, gossiping and talking about boys, then wows everyone with her stylish appearance in the fashion show. Finally, there’s Brendan Jr., a charismatic youngster who’s also an extremely rare metatropic dwarf, and his patient father, Brendan, Sr.
It’s hard to go wrong with a subject matter such as this one, if handled with sensitivity, compassion, intelligence and an absence of pity. Mauro displays all of these attributes and, as a result, the footage he has is very compelling. Unfortunately, it’s not very focused. Other than Marty relating his hesitations about attending prior conventions, a backdrop against which his burgeoning romance with Mary Ann can flourish, there’s no arc to the documentary. Instead, we only get a slice of these peoples’ lives during the convention. This isn’t bad, but a longer film that would allow the viewer more time to get to know these folks would have made for a far more compelling and complete film. More is not always better…but it would be in the case of “4 Foot Ten.”