Orthodox Stance

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Oxbow Lake Films

As is the case with so many recent documentaries, "Orthodox Stance" deals with a subject that, while it might have made for an intriguing segment on a television newsmagazine show, doesn't sustain itself over the course of a feature-length film.

This portrait of a professional boxer who also happens to be an Orthodox Jew has its interesting and evocative moments but lacks the compelling aspects necessary to make it stand out in the current theatrical glut. It is playing an exclusive theatrical engagement at New York's Cinema Village before expanding to other cities.

The filmmaker, Jason Hutt, tracked the career of Dmitriy Salita -- a Russian immigrant living in Brooklyn -- for several years. A likable and clearly religiously devout young man, Salita achieved significant success as a junior welterweight in the ring, and his personal story received enough media attention to garner him an invitation to a Hanukkah party at the White House.

The central dramatic element of the film is naturally the baby-faced Salita's efforts to reconcile his professional career with his religious observances. Thus, he refuses to fight on the Sabbath; he takes time out from his training to study the Torah; his solicitous manager cooks him kosher meals in his hotel rooms; and he's none too thrilled when one of his sponsors turns out to be a beer company.

That aspect aside, the film is a fairly standard observational depiction of a struggling fighter's life, culminating of course in a dramatic professional title bout and a knockout victory. Of course, it's not every fighter who's introduced to the crowd by Matisyahu, a reggae-singing Hasidic rapper.
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