Crediting his passion for boxing with helping him find God, babyfaced welterweight fighter Dmitriy Salita seriously knits his brow in devotion to the rituals of Orthodox Judaism and professional pugilism in Orthodox Stance. (The winding of gauzy hand wraps under Everlast gloves rhymes neatly with the coiled straps of tefillin around the forearms before prayer.) The son of nonreligious Ukrainian immigrants to Brooklyn, Salita embraced his faith nearly simultaneously with the fistic science at age 13, around the time his mother succumbed to cancer; he proceeded to win a Golden Gloves title as a youth, and steadily piled up wins in the four years chronicled here after turning pro at age 20. Jason Hutt’s debut feature is a reminder that the boxing gym remains a multiethnic magnet for aspiring sons of the urban poor, and despite the familiarity of its milieu to even casual fans, it captures fleeting moments of unexpected intimacy, as when an older boxer Salita has just TKOed tells him to stay in control of his career, and a leather-lunged female fan from the hood hectors him after a narrow victory, “You know you coulda done a helluva lot better.” Dmitriy politely fields concerned questions from community groups (what kind of girl will marry a boxer?) and frets when a promoter sneakily downgrades the numbers on a proposed contract, but perhaps is most irritated when his brother tries to outfit him for a press conference: “Who cares if it’s DKNY? It’s wrinkled.” Once the novelty of his career has been checklisted—spiritual adviser in his entourage to aid with the kosher requirements, the scheduling of bouts to avoid Friday nights, friction with beer sponsors—Salita comes off as a likeable, low-key, but dogged kid with none of the triumphalist braggadocio of Bible-thumping footballers, and whose overhand right testifies to his being two different people in the synagogue and the ring.
- Oxbow Lake Films
- 83 min
- Jason Hutt
- Dmitriy Salita, Jimmy O'Pharrow, Israel Liberow, Bob Arum, Hector Roca
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