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Oscilloscope Laboratories has picked up documentary Wrestle for North America.
Suzannah Herbert and Lauren Belfer are behind the feature, a coming-of-age documentary about four members of a high-school wrestling team at Huntsville’s J.O. Johnson High School, a longstanding entry on Alabama’s list of failing schools.
Coached by teacher Chris Scribner, teammates Jailen, Jamario, Teague and Jaquan each face challenges far beyond a shot at the State Championship: splintered family lives, drug use, teenage pregnancy, mental health struggles, and run-ins with the law threaten to derail their success on the mat and lock any doors that could otherwise open.
“As two women filmmakers, we bring a unique perspective to exploring the lives of four teenage boys as they come of age, wrestle and struggle with the consequences of class, race, and segregation,” says Herbert. “Both the film and the wrestlers themselves are sensitive, emotional and complex, because we allowed them to be when our society tells them otherwise.”
Belfer added, “‘Don’t cry’ was a repeated refrain we heard told to the wrestlers, no matter the circumstance: a lost match, an unjust arrest. But growing up as a disadvantaged young man in America today, and more so as a young, black man, begs more than just stoic restraint, and the film explores the emotional burden these young men carry and the pressure they feel to succeed in spite of it. So while our film is small in scope, it wrestles with broad, challenging questions.”
Belfer produced the doc, with Steven Klein, Seth Gordon, Mary Rohlich and Herbert. Micheline Levine exec produced.
Oscilloscope’s Dan Berger says, “There’s a reason Wrestle keeps collecting audience awards at film festivals. At a challenging time in our society in so many ways, Suzannah and Lauren’s film, and their subjects, tackle major issues in an intimate way and it never feels defeatist.”
Wrestle will also air as a part of PBS’ weekly Independent Lens documentary series. Oscilloscope is planning a 2019 theatrical release.
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