From filmmakers Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz comes ‘Lucha Mexico’, an intimate look into the history and tradition of lucha libre, as well as the stars that have taken up Mexico’s most famous pastime as their chosen profession. The film follows a handful of luminaries of the business, namely Shocker, Blue Demon Jr., Faby Apache, Strongman and El Hijo del Perro Aguayo, but mainly focuses on ‘1000% Guapo’ Shocker. Filmed over the space of four years, we follow Shocker as he tours the wrestling hot-spots of Mexico (big and small), but are also given access to the other side of his life as a family man and business owner. When injured, we see the strain it puts on him as he works in his family’s restaurant to make ends meet, while on the road the hardships take form in the repetitive grind of travelling, wrestling, signing autographs, working out and then doing it all over again.
Through Blue Demon Jr. the film gives us an insight into the history of lucha libre, the cultural impact the sport has had and the pride that tradition and the mask represent to Blue Demon Jr. In Faby Apache we’re given a brief glimpse into what makes the luchadoras tick, and their desire to prove they’re just as hard hitting and talented as their male counterparts, while Jon ‘Strongman’ Andersen’s story parallels that of many of the foreigners who come to Mexico to ply their trade in luchalibre, often leaving their families behind for long stretches of time. Throughout it all there’s a great emphasis on just how deeply embedded lucha libre is in Mexican culture. From the street sellers who hawk their wares in the vicinity of the world famous Arena Mexico, to the adoring fans asking for autographs seemingly where ever the luchadors go. It’s easy to see why guys like Shocker live and breathe lucha libre, and just as evident is the toll it takes upon them and their families.
The film also talks to Fabian el Gitano and El Hijo del Perro Aguayo, two men with very different paths in lucha libre who’s stories both ended in tragedy. Gitano, a middle of the card sort of guy, worries for his future after lucha libre and so opens his own gym. He also talks about his reverence for the mask, which he then loses and has to readjust to life without it. Later we learn that Fabian took his own life, although the film doesn’t dwell much on the circumstances, which remain unclear. Meanwhile, El Hijo del Perro Aguayo, son of the famous Perro Aguayo, talks about his successes running his own stable (Los Perros del Mal) which has grown into its own brand, independent of any one company. He also talks about the hardcore, bloody style that Perros del Mal regularly employ. Sadly, Perro’s life was cut short after a freak in-ring accident broke his neck. Footage of Perro being attended to by medical personal plays, but the doctor’s report ultimately concluded that he had died on impact.
Over the course of the hour and forty three minutes of ‘Lucha Mexico’ we see the public and personal face of lucha libre. We see what it means to the people of Mexico, and what it means to those who dedicate themselves to be a part of it. It reveals the reverence and esteem this sport, this tradition, this lifestyle holds for those involved with it, but also the sacrifices they make and the dangers they face. But, ultimately, the film ends the way it began: with Mr. ‘1000% Guapo’ Shocker travelling the roads, performing in rings big and small, meeting his fans and training for the next match. The final montage really drives home the grind Shocker and the other luchadors put themselves through for their passion and their profession, but the film also does enough to demonstrate to the viewer why it’s all worth it to them.
Despite feeling a little disjointed in places as things jumps back and forth through the subjects on display, ‘Lucha Mexico’ presents an interesting glimpse into the lifestyles of the men and women who ply their trade in lucha libre. The film takes a more cinema verite approach with no narration on hand to provide context, and in many ways it benefits from this as the camera takes us on a journey through the sights and sounds of lucha libre and Mexico at large. There’s a great emphasis placed on the history and tradition of lucha libre, and this is especially evident when describing the legendary arenas that for decades have played host to the sport, as well as the tiny makeshift arenas in small towns that demonstrate so well the passion for lucha libre that runs deep in Mexican culture.
Overall, ‘Lucha Mexico’ is an entertaining documentary that never overstays its welcome, but suffers at times for not knowing when to broaden or to narrow its focus. The disjointed nature often made me wish for a more traditional verite approach, fixating on the central character of Shocker and exposing the world of lucha libre through his eyes. At other times as the film traverses the wider world of lucha libre, it hints at becoming something much more all-encompassing before falling just short. For example, a brief mention of how gang crime has led to many promotions abandoning traditional hotbeds for lucha libre is never expounded on, but if there’s any conclusion to be drawn from this regarding the state of the lucha libre business on display in the film, it’s implicit rather than overtly described. Shocker is the lynchpin of the piece, and while the other subjects certainly provide their own insights, it’s through Shocker’s journey that ‘Lucha Mexico’ is at its most compelling.
‘Lucha Mexico’ is available on DVD for US customers at: https://www.kinolorber.com/product/view/id/3803 while UK customers should keep their eyes peeled for news about UK distribution in the near future!