The Next Reel • Season 11 • Series: Sports • Girlfight

Girlfight

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We continue our season of all films directed by women and our series focused on Sports films with Karyn Kusama’s 2000 debut film ‘Girlfight,’ starring Michelle Rodriguez, also in her debut performance. It’s a solid film and well-worth talking about. Check it out then tune in to this episode!

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“All these years, you just looked right through me.”

It was after learning to box that Karyn Kusama became interested in making a film set in the world of boxing, specifically focused on a woman learning to box. After writing the script, she found it very difficult to finance. People said it wouldn’t work unless she changed the Latina protagonist to a white woman. They said having a female protagonist was “unbelievable” and “unappealing.” Even after her producers finally found the financing, the financier pulled out days before production was supposed to start. It was only with the last-minute financial support from one of her producers – Maggie Renzi, along with her partner John Sayles – that she was able to get her film made. And we’re glad she did, because it’s a great film and introduced the world to Michelle Rodriguez. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Sports series with Kusama’s 2000 film Girlfight.

Here’s what we take on in our conversation about Girlfight.

Clearly, this film is a showcase for Michelle Rodriguez as Diana, our protagonist. We get a sense of her screen presence and her intensity. How much did this film end up defining the trajectory of her career? Is she ever offered parts in romantic comedies or does she purposefully steer toward the action films she’s generally making? Either way, we have a great time with her here and love watching her in whatever she chooses to make.

One of the challenges we have with the film is the balance between Diana and her boxing with her relationship with Adrian. Is it the script that leaves us struggling? The performances from beginning actors? Or the structure and how interconnected Diana’s love story becomes with her boxing journey? It works for us, but not as well as we perhaps want it to.

Regardless, we love the cast. Jaime Tirell, Douglas Santiago, Paul Calderón, Ray Santiago – they all deliver. Jaime’s Hector, however, is one of our favorites. What a great character.

Kusama shows great technique right out of the gate. The introduction to Diana in the school hallway. The intense looks Diana gives right into the lens, breaking the fourth wall. The boxing POVs with the white flashes. Kusama’s not afraid to put strong touches on her film and they all work to its benefit. How has her career progressed after this? And what do we think of her upcoming foray into the TV series remake of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers? Either way, she’s a fascinating director and worth tracking.

This film is hard to come by these days as it’s currently not streaming. You can rent a physical copy from Scarecrow video, however, through their rent-by-mail program. Check them out – the link’s in the show notes below.

It’s worth tracking this film down and watching it. It certainly would be a film worth a streaming or physical release as more people should check it out. We have a great time talking about it so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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