“Tough Guys” is directed by Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo, and produced by Craig DiBiase. The documentary chronicles the origins of MMA beginning in Pittsburgh in 1979 when Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers, and brawlers — billed as a no-holds-barred new type of competitive fighting.
The fights became known as “tough man,” “tough guy,” “battle of the brawlers,” or “battle of the superfighters” matches. The film explores the moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to record levels of unemployment.
“When I was around 12 years old, my dad took me to my first ‘tough guy’ competition in my hometown of Beckley, W.Va.,” Spurlock said. “And I have to admit, it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. So when the opportunity came along for me help tell the story of its origin, I jumped at the chance.”
“Tough Guys” will world premiere on June 15 at the AFI Docs Film Festival in Washington, D.C.
“Like my previous films, ‘Born Into Brothels’ and ‘E-Team,’ ‘Tough Guys’ is about underdogs striving to achieve the impossible,” Kauffman said. “In ‘Tough Guys,’ the underdog is America’s working class who are searching for respect and ultimately a way to survive. When I got involved I didn’t know how timely the story would be.”
Spurlock’s business partner, Jeremy Chilnick, is also executive producing. Spurlock is best know for his 2004 documentary “Super Size Me,” which earned an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. His other credits include “Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden,” “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” “Rats,” and CNN’s “Inside Man.”