Mostly filmed in East Los Angeles, “Born and Bred” surveys the amateur boxing scene where would-be champions begin fighting officially as early as age 8, unofficially even earlier. Though putatively concentrating on three teens’ aspirations to go pro and “be somebody,” director Justin Frimmer has distilled his 150 hours of raw cinema-verite footage into a style diametrically opposed to that of, say, “Hoop Dreams,” taking a somewhat clip-happy, short-attention-span approach to his material. Superficial but definitely slickly commercial, “Born” could land punches on sports-themed channels and Latino-friendly airwaves following its Aug. 19 premiere at Gotham’s Quad Cinema.
Shortly after they began covering the kids’ bouts in 2005 (they filmed them until 2010), helmer Frimmer and his crew happily hit on two of their pic’s fairly well-chosen “stars.” Personable, soft-spoken, 16-year-old twin brothers Oscar and Javier Molina have set themselves on a career path toward becoming boxing elite. Providing a contrast is the pic’s third main character, former child-abuse victim Victor Pasillas, first caught at age 13; the highly volatile Victor possesses a fierceness quite at odds with the Molinas’ self-disciplined professionalism.
Trainers Robert Luna, who manages the Molinas, and Rodrigo Mosquero, who handles Pasillas, also rep key players. Practically surrogate fathers, Luna and Mosquero inevitably instill life values during workouts, weigh-ins and ringside pep talks. But given the film’s predilection for flashy setpieces, its attempts to fully explore the trainers’ backstories and those of the kids’ families do not connect emotionally.
Frimmer’s choppy aesthetic is such that almost every establishing shot, underscored with mostly generic Latin/hip-hop tracks, becomes a jump-cut montage of neighborhood ambience that suggests a misplaced musicvideo. The film’s flow periodically curdles into topical asides — a section about gang violence over here, a section about immigration over there. One sidetrack-within-a-sidetrack impressionistically re-creates the harrowing experiences of the Molinas’ mom as an illegal alien.
The importance of religion is skirted but never formally addressed in frequent glimpses of crucifixes and Virgin Mary statuettes; in a briefly spotted “Jabbing for Jesus” T-shirt in a crowd; and in Mosquero’s tendency to give interviews while reading the Bible.
Of the countless boxing matches sampled in fragmented fashion, only one is presented with a continuity the viewer can follow, though it’s an important one: Javier’s adult-level, do-or-die fight against an older contender from Philadelphia at Colorado Springs’ Olympics Eliminator, potentially qualifying him to advance to the 2008 Olympic trials in Houston.
Left with the task of extracting morals and deeper meanings about minority acculturation and boxing as the most “culturally resonant” sport are boxing gurus like Teddy Atlas (who trained Mike Tyson), HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley, USC professor Roberto Suro, sports journalist David Avila and the Los Angeles Times’ Hector Beccera, all of whom are irregularly inserted.