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Awesome: 12.5%
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Pretty Bad: 12.5%
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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Girl Wrestler
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by Chris Parry

"Why are Texan schoolboys afraid of a 115lb schoolgirl?"
3 stars

Anyone not born with their head up their ass realizes that there’s no good reason that girls shouldn’t be able to play any sport boys can play. It’s hardly a big stretch of logic – if they can manage the pole vault, they can manage anything. Yet deep in the heart of Texas there exists a young girl who is being told she can’t play the sport she wants to play. Tara wants to wrestle. And since the rules of wrestling state she has to wrestle someone her weight, size and experience or not wrestle at all, the absence of female wrestlers that qualify means she’d like to wrestle boys rather than not wrestle at all. And to her credit, she’s beaten more than her share of the testicular crowd, so why should she not be allowed to compete against them? Well, the pinhead crowd claims that the early-teen boys are sexually aware, so grappling with a girl risks things getting a touch naughty. How does Tara respond to that claim? “If they say that, I’d be more worried about boys wrestling boys than boys wrestling girls.” Hmm, smart girl that Tara.

Director Diane Zander doesn’t try to jump through hoops with this eye-opening documentary, preferring to let us draw our own conclusions rather than investigate matters deeply and connect the dots for us. Traditionally, this is a good move in a documentary; after all, you’re supposed to keep your personal biases and influence out of the picture if you’re going to bring a true presentation of reality to the screen. But while showing us the events in this girl’s life certainly opens the audience’s eyes, it also presents many questions that should be answered by someone.

Such as, for example, why these kids, some as young as 12, are putting themselves into mortal danger trying to lose weight so that they can get into a lesser weight category and thus wrestle easier opponents. When the camera shows one of these kids sticking his fingers down his throat in an effort to vomit up a pound or two (in public), you have to ask how many people officiating in this sport turn a blind eye to what these rules do to a competitive kid. When you see Tara’s father remonstrating her for having gained a pound (or not lost four), you wonder whether these people even care about the welfare of their children. And when you see ‘Eli’s Mother’, yelling at her son as he wrestles Tara, bug-eyed in rage and yelling things like “pull her leg off”, you just have to sit back and think to yourself whether the children are the only ones with any sense at all.

You’ve got to feel for Tara after watching this film. She just wants to wrestle and have fun doing it, but she’s made to sit out years of her life because some old farts don’t want their sons to get a complex when they lose. On top of that, her father seems to think that wrestling is the only thing that matters in his daughter’s life. On top of that, she finally meets her wrestling idol, only to hear him say that he doesn’t agree with girls wrestling boys. In all seriousness, isn’t anyone prepared to just let a girl grapple, and deal with their own personal issues in their own head? It’s somewhat startling to see barely anybody ever approach this girl and just shake her hand for having the temerity to fight the system, fight the boys and fight her parents, while remaining sane and keeping her competitive spirit to the fore.

Things are changing in the wrestling world – the Olympics in Athens will host women’s wrestling for the first time – but as this documentary disturbingly shows, just being able to wrestle isn’t enough. Being able to wrestle without spending four hours at a time jogging in full sunlight, and days on end starving yourself, would be a nice thing too.

Perhaps this documentary will bring further improvements to the sport of wrestling, but if it had pressed a little harder and a little deeper, it could have been a film that made a real difference. Close, but no cigar.

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originally posted: 03/19/03 05:23:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/30/05 David Cleaveland The movie is well supported by the Title IX advocates who are all about stepping on men. 2 stars
10/07/03 Tara Neal It showed the problems girls have to go through to just compete at something they love. 5 stars
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  16-Mar-2003 (NR)



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