Chavez

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NEW YORK -- There's friendship as well as national pride evident in the feature directorial debut of Mexican actor Diego Luna. This biographical documentary, not centering on the controversial Venezuelan president but rather famed Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez, was co-executive produced by Gael Garcia Bernal, Luna's co-star in "Y Tu Mama Tambien." "Chavez" recently was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Luna's film is an appropriately modest, video-shot affair, chronicling its subject's rise from poverty to the top ranks of the boxing world, where he went on to set the record for winning the most title fights in history.

Although he well chronicles Chavez's lengthy career in which he fought in a variety of weight classes, the filmmaker concentrates on the personal aspects of his subject's often-troubled life and the complications that inevitably accompanied his hard-won fame and wealth. Besides the extensive footage of the fighter, there are filmed interviews with such central figures as Mike Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya, Don King and others.

Among the topics dealt with at length are the collapse of Chavez's marriage and the deleterious effects it had on him; his troublesome relationship with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari; his controversial associations with well-known drug traffickers; and, after his own career eventually wound down, his current career management of his son, also a boxer.

Fairly crude in its visual and narrative styles, "Chavez" is nonetheless compelling viewing thanks to the fascination exerted by its charismatic central figure and the obvious passion and affection with which the filmmaker tackled the project.     

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