Susan Omand finds a documentary that boxes clever as she watches the short film The Good Fight...
Alan has lost nine close family members to gun violence in his favela community in Rio de Janeiro. Now, through his boxing project, he’s fighting to build a better future for his son and his community.
The first thing you notice about this short documentary is how beautifully it is filmed. The team of film-maker Ben Holman and his Director of Photography Neirin Jones have captured life on the Brazilian streets before ever a word is spoken. The colours and framing draw you in like a painting and immediately involve you in the scene, with a real feeling of danger and claustrophobia as the camera follows Alan Duarte through the tiny, badly lit, high walled alleyways in Rio. The second thing you notice is the stunning music and how perfectly it sets you on edge as it sets the scene for the opening shots of the story. And I mean shots, because gunfire is the next thing that you hear, as Alan is being interviewed. He is, not complacent, but accepting of the fact – “This happens on a daily basis,” he says, “Every night there is gunfire.” And he is doing something about it.
The contrast between night and day in the film is, well, like night and day. From the claustrophobic oppression of the alleyways at night, the daylight brings a brightening of the music and a visit to the boxing project that Alan has set up, where the blue of the exercise mats is almost an oasis of coolness among the phosphor yellow desert that is the streets outside.
The interviews are fascinating. As well as hearing about the project itself, we get to learn more about Alan’s family background and he is candid about dealing with the horrifying deaths of very close family members, especially his older brother, the man he credits with trying to encourage him to lead a life outside of drugs and gangs. I can’t begin to imagine the trauma for him, or his mother who is also interviewed throughout the film, of finding his brother, lying in the street, shot in the face and I can only applaud his strength of spirit in turning that grief into a force for change rather than a drive for revenge.
Because change is, slowly, happening. We also hear from several of the students, of all ages from tiny to adult, at the boxing project and they all say the same thing – that boxing saved them and gave them a purpose. And I think that’s the over-riding thing we get from the documentary – this is a project that has saved, not just Alan, not just those that he teaches, but the whole community and, what’s more, this documentary makes you care that it has.
Image - Beija Films