A look at the the latest project from Eben Kostbar and Joseph McKelheer (producers and writers of “The Hammer”).
by Ricky Mulvey
It is not often that a documentary is successfully created without an agenda behind it. No matter how subtle, what the filmmaker wants the viewer to think about a certain issue is readily apparent.
In “Fight Church”, directed by Bryan Storkel and Oscar Winner Daniel Junge, that is not the case. Instead, the documentary serves as a discussion piece to the question, “Can you love your neighbor and punch him in the face?”
The plot is centered around pastor/Mixed Martial Arts fighters (yes they exist) and the efforts to accept their sport.
In simplest terms, one side claims that the love of Jesus can be spread through Mixed Martial Arts, also known as MMA, and the other goes with the idea that the violence conflicts with Christianity’s ideals. The movie encourages viewers to think: Is MMA too violent to be considered a sport? Does MMA encourage kids to be violent outside of the cage? Can one be a “good” Christian and participate in the game? If these ideas provoke you, then it’s a good flick to watch.
However, it’s not entirely perfect. In the first half of the movie, I found many of the talking heads on MMA sharing a circular argument for the legalization of their sport. The story kicks up in the latter half of the film as Pastor Paul Burress prepares for his fight and the legalization effort of MMA in New York intensifies, but I would say the pacing is off for the first forty or so minutes.
Another issue I had was the music. Especially at the end, the music sounded as if it belonged in a haunted house rather than a New York State Legislature lawmaking meeting. I think the intent of the music was to add intensity to the scenes, but sometimes it’s too much and hurts the tone the filmmakers are trying to convey.
This isn’t to say the film doesn’t have commendable strong points. The artistry and heart found in MMA is effectively shown through the shots and editing of actual fights, and the subplots are interesting and do not detract from the main ideas.
What the documentary does well the best is create discussion, and if you’re interests align with the themes of the film, I would recommend it to you.
DVD preorders are available and the film is currently on a film festival circuit, and more information can be found at fightchurch.com.