Skirt-wearing Bolivian women wrestlers sounds like fodder for a latenight TV skit, but “Cholita libre” shows that while the inherent ridiculousness of concept is partly deliberate, it’s also wholly liberating. German helmers Jana Richter and Rike Holtz profile four of these open-faced playfully pummelling mammas, unobtrusively entering the women’s lives via a hands-off approach that can appear aimless but reveals itself as supportive and respectful. Ethno events will jump into the ring, and auds at smaller fests will be pushovers for these gently feisty dames.
With action just as choreographed as that of its Stateside twin, Bolivia’s “lucha libre” wrestling circuit removes the grotesquerie and combative bluster, substituting a winsome bravado. There’s also a more baldly mythological element in how the matches pit good against evil, with each woman assuming a character — “Rosita the Heartbreaker,” “Claudina the Condemned” — whose role is to offer hope to the righteous or relief to the vexed. All grapplers here are from La Paz, and all are cholitas, indigenous people only recently experiencing some reduction in institutionalized discrimination. Unapologetically small docu eschews voiceovers, favoring slice-of-life tactics that suit the solidly handsome digital format.