Orthodox Stance

Once it is established that professional boxer Dimitri Salita is also a practicing Orthodox Jew, Jason Hutt's journeyman docu, "Orthodox Stance," holds few surprises.

With:
With: Dimitri Salita, Jimmy O'Pharrow, Israel Liberow, Bob Arum, Lou Dibella, Oscar Suarez, Hector Roca, Rabbi Zalman. (English, Russian, Hebrew dialogue)

Once it is established that professional boxer Dimitri Salita is also a practicing Orthodox Jew, Jason Hutt’s journeyman docu, “Orthodox Stance,” holds few surprises. Salita comes across as such a blandly nice kid — even when demolishing his opponents in the ring — that Hutt’s straightforward presentation tends to flatten out pic’s anomalies instead of highlighting them. Excellent ringside coverage doesn’t show much genuine tension, unless keeping kosher in a Puerto Rican hotel room qualifies as high drama. Opened Jan. 15 at Gotham’s Cinema Village, pic will doubtless draw as oddball a mix of Hassidim and boxing enthusiasts as Salita’s bouts do.

Hutt briefly addresses the salient points of Salita’s bio, from his arrival in Brooklyn from the Ukraine at the age of 11, through the death of his mother from cancer when Dimitri was a teen, to his winning the New York City Golden Gloves and the U.S. Junior Amateur National Championship for his weight.

Docu then tracks Salita’s career over a period of three years, following his decision to turn pro, as he boxes and negotiates his way through the fight game.

Aside from the well-shot matches themselves — which are easy to comprehend for even the veriest greenhorn, as is Dimitri’s undeniable talent, pic mainly focuses on the melting pot of ethnicities that comprise both Salita’s entourage and his fan base.

A bearded Chabad Orthodox Jew and lifelong boxing enthusiast serves as Dimitri’s manager and adviser, seconding him in his religious observances and cooking Kosher food on the road. Hands-on coaching is provided by two successive veteran Hispanic trainers, Oscar Suarez and Hector Roca, while Jimmy O’Pharrow, a legendary 82-year-old black trainer and manager of the gym where Dimitri started as a kid, dispenses wisdom and water in his corner.

Salita himself incorporates several communities, his largely secular immigrant family, his Chabad sect and his fellow fighters with whom he apparently enjoys an excellent rapport. As O’Pharrow puts it, Dimitri “looks Russian, prays Jewish and fights black.” This diversity is colorfully displayed in a title bout, one of the rare fights on his home turf of New York City, where his satin robe sports a Star of David (he sometimes promotes himself as The Star of David), his walk to the ring is serenaded by the Hasidic reggae rapper Matisyahu, and big black mamas rub elbows with boisterous Russians, bearded and yarmulked rabbis and genteel Israeli flag-waving Yiddisher women.

Tech credits are adequate, with superior fight coverage.

Orthodox Stance

Production: An Oxbow Lake Films presentation of an Oxbow Lake Films production in association with Cactus Three and BBC Storyville. Produced by Michel Negroponte, Jason Hutt. Executive producers, Julie Goldman, Krysanne Katsoolis, Caroline Stevens, Nick Fraser. Directed by Jason Hutt.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Hutt; editors, Hutt, Rachel Kittner; music, Mark Orton; music supervisor, Reuben Simon; sound, Joe Mendelson; associate producer, Kittner. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Jan. 12, 2008. (In New York Jewish Film Festival.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With: With: Dimitri Salita, Jimmy O'Pharrow, Israel Liberow, Bob Arum, Lou Dibella, Oscar Suarez, Hector Roca, Rabbi Zalman. (English, Russian, Hebrew dialogue)

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