Review: ‘Gaea Girls’

A straight-arrow look at a potentially loaded subject -- here, women's wrestling in Japan -- "Gaea Girls" is another impressive notch in the belts of documaking duo Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams, whose nonjudgmental, part-of-the-group style has already thrown fascinating light on Iran's justice system ("Divorce Iranian Style") and Japanese transvestite showguys ("Dream Girls"). Like their previous outings, this one is tailor-made for small-screen and fest dates.

A straight-arrow look at a potentially loaded subject — here, women’s wrestling in Japan — “Gaea Girls” is another impressive notch in the belts of documaking duo Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams, whose nonjudgmental, part-of-the-group style has already thrown fascinating light on Iran’s justice system (“Divorce Iranian Style”) and Japanese transvestite showguys (“Dream Girls”). Like their previous outings, this one is tailor-made for small-screen and fest dates.

Almost entirely set in the training camp of the titular club, supervised by icily elegant Gaea Japan prez Yuka Sugiyama and run with military ruthlessness by strapping pro wrestler Chigusa Nagayo, film largely focuses on the continuing efforts of crybaby trainee Saika Takeuchi to pass her final tests. Copious training scenes show the girls possess considerably more skill than the semistaged public bouts suggest; Saika’s problem is she lacks the killer instinct, so well demonstrated by her trainer, spunky torpedo Meiko Satomura. As other trainees come and go, Saika battles on, desperate to “be someone” and “stand out” in the ring, where hordes of screaming, mostly female fans (as in “Dream Girls”) create their own stars. Longinotto’s clean, up-close lensing is a bonus.

Gaea Girls

U.K.

Production

A Vixen Films production for BBC Bristol. Produced, directed, written by Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams.

Crew

Camera (color), Longinotto; editor, Brian Tagg. Reviewed on videocassette, Edinburgh, Aug. 20, 2000. (In Edinburgh Film Festival -- Imagining Reality.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Chigusa Nagayo, Meiko Satomura, Saika Takeuchi, Yuka Sugiyama.
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