'The Warrior'

Mexican champion boxer Ana Maria Torres lives up to her nickname and the title of the film capturing three years in her wild career, "The Warrior."

Mexican champion boxer Ana Maria Torres lives up to her nickname and the title of the film capturing three years in her wild career, “The Warrior.” Geared to captivate sports and non-sports fans, this is a straight-ahead docu portrait in which filmmaker Paulina del Paso is granted wide access to Torres as she bucks personal doubts, checkered family support, a flinty b.f./coach, a stream of opponents and rigged fights in (of all places) North Korea. Result is a genuinely satisfying study that buyers should put on their card.

Like many boxers, Torres came out of difficult circumstances, including a dad she barely knew whom she claims fathered 29 children. Her mother, Angelica, is never terribly enthusiastic about her career choice, but this only seems to spur on “La Guerrera” Torres, whose obvious bulldog mentality is precisely what’s required for success in the sweet science.

But during the 2004-06 period filmed here, Torres finds herself up against some rather bizarre obstacles. In no fewer than two champion bantamweight bouts inexplicably located in North Korea (an explanation of which would have been helpful), the dogged boxer faces off with obviously lesser local opponents and loses both times in evidently rigged decisions. For her and her coach and b.f., Roberto, it’s the post-Cold War equivalent of being on the wrong end of a fixed match in boxing’s golden age.

Like any good coach, Roberto pushes Torres, though the lines between the personal and the professional gets blurred in fascinating and complex ways. He states, correctly, that “her mentality is what sets (Torres) apart from other female boxers” (he gave her her nickname after she won a match with a busted right hand), but Del Paso also captures several moments when Torres gets down on herself. After losses, she feels she’s let down her supporters and her family, even though her kin liberally hand out criticism even when she wins — something Torres feels bitter about.

It’s these cycles of defeat and victory, perseverance and self-doubt, that form the backbone of the film and give it a texture beyond Del Paso’s sheer reportage. Adding to the pressure for Torres is the growing split between Roberto and Angelica, who dislikes the fact that he’s older than her daughter, while he bristles at the family’s meddling.

Final passages get a bit sloppy in the storytelling department, as Torres is seen backing away from competitions and opts for training others, before a dramatic conclusion that feels rushed rather than fully developed.

Image quality is low-grade video all the way, but this is abetted by lenser Del Paso’s collaboration with ace d.p. and documaker Dariela Ludlow, here handling assistant camera duties. Fight coverage is excellent and concise.

The Warrior

Mexico

Production

An Beca Gucci Ambulante release of an Ambulante Sres Del Paso/Beca Gucci Ambulante/CUEC presentation. Produced by Paulina del Paso. Executive producer, Liliana Pardo. Directed by Paulina del Paso.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV, 16mm), del Paso; editor, Yibran Asuad, del Paso; music, Pedro "Zulu" Gonzalez; sound (stereo), del Paso; sound designer, Gonzalez; associate producer, Abraham Castillo. Reviewed at Morelia Film Festival (competing), Oct. 21, 2011. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Ana Maria Torres, Roberto, Angelica Torres.

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