"Our Fight": Everybody's Fight

in 6th Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival

by Chiara Arroyo Cella

“There is no worse struggle than the one that never happens.” So goes the wise Mexican saying, and so goes Our Fight (Nuestra lucha), the small and earnest documentary directed by Jaime Rogel Román.

“Small”, because it was shot for 150,000 Mexican Pesos (about 12,000 USD) as his thesis project for “Centro de Capacitación para Productores” (Film Producers School) in Cuernavaca, a town 77 km from Mexico City); “earnest”, because while neither pretentious nor excessive, it succeeds in having a beginning and an end with a very clear mind.

Rogel Román’s film tells the story of a group of wrestling aficionados who every weekend become local heroes at a makeshift arena. When the show is over, they take off their masks and go back to their regular lives, where the real struggle continues with their dreams and hopes.

The director discovered his subject by chance. Disappointed by the decision of his municipal government to demolish some old murals in Cuernavaca and build a commercial mall, he went to shoot the demolition. There, close to the central market, he found a special spot where people where laughing, yelling and enjoying a sporting show of la lucha libre (free wrestling).

“When I saw it, I felt there was something to be told,” explains Rogel Román, who also shot and edited the film. “Mexicans identify themselves with ‘lucha libre’, they open up and vent out,” explains Rogel Román. Indeed, wrestling is a very popular sport that apparently arrived from France in 1863 and became official in 1933 when the “Lucha Libre Mexican Council” was founded. Since then, it’s become part of the Mexican culture and collective imagination, driven by famous heroes like Blue Demon or El Santo (The Saint) who appeared on television and in films.

Despite the popularity of ‘lucha libre’ in Mexico, Our Fight never panders to the local audience; and at the same time, it doesn’t presume its subject is common knowledge. I mean, this documentary could travel beyond borders.

The film has a simple structure, with the camera following six wrestlers. They share what ‘lucha libre’ is and what it means to them; how they feel when they adopt a professional nicknames and don the amusing, colourful costumes to become heroes of the arena. These sections alternate with slices of real life, as they return to their daily jobs and discuss their hopes and their dreams. “The most difficult part was convincing them to trust me. It wasn’t easy for them to express their deep thoughts about life,” remembers the director, who spent almost six months gaining his subjects’ confidence before they were willing to step in front of his camera.

Few locations are used to develop the story. The arena, which the ‘luchadores’ set up and take down every time, is the primary setting. In this poor and neglected space (which they also manage), the fighters become local idols acclaimed by men, women and children who pay 20 pesos (about one dollar) to be entertained. The interior of different working spaces — a taxi, or the kitchen of a café — completes the panorama, the other side of the wrestlers’ life.

The slow rhythm of the documentary offers, like life itself, a beating from all sides: Moments of satire and boredom, anguish, happiness and hope.

The documentary maintains its neutrality to the end. It’s also respectful. It goes without saying that Our Fight could have been a freak show, a common language of some docs in recent times. But what happens is actually the opposite, as the wisdom of the humble people transcends the spectacle; through their example, we can learn an important lesson. “In life, we should try. Yes, we can,” repeats Rogel Román, quoting one of the wrestlers. And because there is no worse struggle than the one that never happens.