The mixed martial arts film premiered in April at the San Francisco International Film Festival as one of the five movies in its new Launch section, selected with the intention of helping the titles find distribution.
Unay directed from his own script and shot “The Cage Fighter.” James Orara produced and Andrea Meditch served as the executive producer.
The documentary focuses on Joe Carman, a blue-collar Washington State boilermaker and master plumber, a loving father and husband who is unable to cope with stresses at home and an ongoing custody battle. He escapes back into the fighting cage to heal himself and come to terms with his past.
Dennis Harvey called the film “engaging” in his review for Variety: “The trouble is, Joe is now pushing 40, facing junior opponents whose youth allows them to keep trim, recover from injuries, and so on much more easily. His four daughters and spouse run an emotional gamut from worried to furious over his repeatedly broken promises to quit this dangerous ‘hobby’ before suffering serious, long-term health consequences. But he can’t bring himself to stop.”
Arianna Bocco, exec VP of acquisitions and productions at Sundance Selects, said, “Jeff Unay’s impressive and beautiful debut unfolds like a narrative film in which the story of Joe Carman and his journey is portrayed with empathy and universal accessibility. We can’t wait to share his story with audiences across the country.”
The deal for the film was negotiated by Bocco from Sundance Selects/IFC Films with Submarine on behalf of the filmmakers.