Friday, August 12, 2011

Justin Frimmer's BORN AND BRED looks at boxing and Hispanics, sports and kids

As it is with Blacks and basketball, so it seems with Hispanics and boxing -- a combination that many feel is the road out of marginalization and the ghetto. According to the new documentary BORN AND BRED, directed and co-edited by Justin Frimmer (a hard man to find a photo of), the eastern reaches of the Los Angeles area deliver more boxers than anywhere else in the USA. I am not at all certain that this is the kind of record we want to keep repeating, however, especially after seeing this new film. What Mr. Frimmer shows us seems to me alternately appalling and sad, but I am not certain -- and this may be a good thing -- just where he stands in regards to these children who, from a very young age, make boxing their be all and end all.

The children we see here seem to have, as one person in the film notes, no real childhood. On the other hand, there's no surety that they'd have had much of a childhood without it. Get 'em while they very young, one trainer counsels. "Seven, eight and nine is better than ten or twelve." At times the movie seems like a commercial for the sport, never more so than when a glammed-up white guy who clearly has some job promoting boxing goes on at length about its glories.  Toward the finale he's back to tell us that boxing is the single "most culturally resonant sport." Huh?

Along the way we get a little sidebar on immigration, and the many demonstrations against the new laws that would make it even more difficult for the USA's illegal immigrants. Because Hispanics are at the forefront of the film, immigration is a major concern, of course, but the film's handling of this is too cursory to offer much insight -- except the usual position of "It's really good for America." Well, yes, but perhaps only up to a point.

Back to the boxing and the kids. "We fight until we die," one of them tells us along the way, and although he's quite happy about this, we may not feel as delighted. The children we see and hear most about are the now famous twins Oscar and Javier Molina, whom we watch train and then fight, lose and then win. Now, in one of the more ironic roads down which this film travels, the two are literaly fighting from different homelands. Then there is little Victor (whom, I believe, is shown at right) whose birth parents were decidedly unfit. He is adopted by a pair who seem to care immensely about him. But genes may reign: While the kid is winning his fights, it's all great. One loss, however, and -- whew!

Regarding those boxing twins (above and below), while their dad is all for the ring and the fights, mom would like her boys to perhaps have a back-up career. She thinks school and good grades are important, too. And speaking of these children not having a childhood, even in high school, the twins are not allowed girlfriends. (And if they're getting a little on the side, we're certainly not privy to it.)

Frimmer either can't or won't probe too deeply into all of this, but he has given us enough of a look to raise a lot of questions. For all the lip-service about the wonderful discipline and training that boxing provides, take a look at the body language and the expression on the face of Javier Molina after he's won his important bout toward the end of the film. These speak volumes about Hispanic macho, male entitlement and the power of force and fist.  "Culturally resonant," indeed.

Clearly, I have mixed feelings about this movie, but it is definitely worth seeing and thinking about. Born and Bred will open, for a week's run, next Wednesday, August 17, in Kansas City (at the Screenland Armour), and on Friday, August 19, in  Los Angeles (Downtown Independent) and New York (Quad Cinema).

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