Luchadoras is a powerful look at standing up to threats and finding pride and power in one’s identity and strength.
A fundamental piece of Mexican culture is the Lucha Libre style of professional wrestling which has been popularized and almost worshiped as modern-day superheroes. Standing for pride and honor behind a mask that symbolizes those very themes, Lucha Libre has captivated audiences for centuries. This doesn’t mean however that there isn’t room for evolution and Luchadoras, from directors Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, highlights exactly that. Following a group of female wrestlers who are breaking down societal barriers not just throughout the country but also on a local level as they come from an area known for violence and high murder rates against women,
From the immediate opening of the film which opens on a young woman riding a bus and sharing a story of a violent attack against her friend, Luchadoras is a rather haunting viewing experience. In a time where the global fight for equality seems to be one making great progress, there remain haunting reminders on a global level of how much work needs to be done. Luchadoras wisely gives these women the open space to share their experiences and fears, making these threats and this pain a living reality that the audience has to confront and accept. This pain however creates the perfect conditions for resistance.
Luchadoras might be painful, but wildly inspirational. These women refuse to live in fear and are stepping up into roles already not necessarily meant for them with confidence and power that is infectious. It is impossible not to feel proud and even humbled by the courage they face, adding another layer of important detail to the conversation about gender equality on a global level. These women are not going to wait for things to be safe or easy, they are taking the spot they deserve and are inspiring other young women and girls along the way. The film handles the balance between showing these women as humans and almost superheroes with a clear focus and directions speaking to the talents of directors Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim. The film takes the time to get to know the individuals behind the mask and bring a humanistic understanding to them which only furthers the audience’s ability to connect with these individuals on a deeper level.
The filmmaking behind the project is also focused and overall solid. Where the film might not be the most dynamic or flashy documentary of the year, the cinematography from Patrick Jasim is well-crafted and the editing from Ginés Olivares is incredibly effective when it comes to building momentum and tone. From the quiet moments of emotion to the more crafted moments of in-ring action which often brings the audience to the edge of their seats with uses of editing techniques such as slow-motion, the film does a rather exceptional job at holding the audience in its hands and naturally having control over their emotional reactions. This journey is fit into a clean 82-minute runtime never feeling lost or overly long which sadly is becoming more of a norm for the documentary genre than one would hope. The one piece of the editing that at times can feel lacking is the personality of the film. With such personable characters it does at times feel like the editing should carry a bit more of an attitude and bite itself, but this is rather minor and in no way compromises the larger goals of the feature.
When it comes to the importance and use of the documentary genre, it is hard to argue that films such as Luchadoras don’t represent the highest purpose the genre can reach. Transporting audiences into a unique yet incredibly important perspective they probably would never hear of otherwise with a purpose that is meaningful and relevant; the film is an authentic and needed expression of hope and the power inside oneself that has the power to inspire those who need inspiration.
Films like Luchadoras go beyond the cinematic art form and become something far larger and more important than just being art. It is a humanistic truth being expressed and valued.
This review is from the 2021 AFI Docs Film Festival.