HotDocs 2011: FIGHTVILLE Review
Fightville is fortunate to have found Dustin Poirier, whose meteoric rise into the UFC is captured right from the very beginning. As a boy he was in and out of institutions (you can read the worry lines on his mothers face) before finding Tim and the Gladiators Academy Gym which have provided a very disciplined outlet for his troubles. Poirier is very open, honest on camera; a conversation about craving ice-cream sandwiches while trying to trim down for a weigh-in is disarmingly charming. In the ring or during one of many training montages, he is a different story: Intense, intimidating and frankly kinda scary. Poor Albert Stainback, the above mentioned young Droog, struggles a bit more with balancing life and combat. Between them, You get the contrasting picture of what it takes it is to keep focused - there is precious little money to be made outside a few fighters at the top, and real life has a way of intruding on training.
This being a sports movie made in the last 15 years, the business aspects creep into what is otherwise a documentary narrative along the lines of Rocky. Gil Guillery (a former fighter) who, in life after fighting runs the USA-MMA, and provides the venues for Dustin and Albert and others to fight, his wife helps build the Octagon stage in rodeo grounds, his very young children hand out flyers at the county fair. More than anyone, Guillery shows how razor thin the financial line is at this level of the sport. You are doing it out of passion, not for profit. This comes back to Tim's pontification, it's art when two perfectly matched fighters stare-down in the octagon, not commerce.
The camera gets right to the edge of the cage and captures the grappling and face-pummeling in a way that regular MMA enthusiasts cannot see the sport. One could hope for higher production value across Fightville, but the immediate visceral capturing of the matches has its own rewards. If you cheer when Dustin forces an opponent into submission (or unconsciousness) you'll find yourself cheering. Us humans are a bloody, primal lot, the spectacle of a good fight is hard to pass up.
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