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Fake It So Real (#110 of 3)

True/False Film Festival 2014: The Notorious Mr. Bout and Actress

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True/False Film Festival 2014: <em>The Notorious Mr. Bout</em> and <em>Actress</em>
True/False Film Festival 2014: <em>The Notorious Mr. Bout</em> and <em>Actress</em>

Maxim Pozdorovkin and Tony Gerber’s The Notorious Mr. Bout teems with a masculine bravado evinced by both the documentary’s numerous male talking heads and its own chaotic, almost exhausting pace, which cuts between home-video recordings, news footage, CCTV cams, animated maps and explanations, and five continents to more comprehensively explain the tribulations (and eventual trial) of Viktor Bout, the convicted Russian arms dealer more colloquially known as “The Merchant of Death,” whose mythological status served as the basis for 2005’s Lord of War.

As Gerber explained in the Q&A following the film, he and Pozdorovkin set out to reveal that Bout isn’t simply a “shadowy Keyser Söze character,” but a complicated man who also liked to spend time with his family and shoot countless hours of home video. The danger in such an approach—and it’s a danger The Notorious Mr. Bout ultimately succumbs to—is that the subject becomes fairly romanticized rather than humanized, since the attempt to reverse one mythological status results in the valorization of another: insistence of Bout’s actual figure as part diabolical, part naïve, part victim. Unfortunately, Pozdorovkin and Gerber’s representation here appears as forced and questionable as much of the media portrayals denigrated throughout the film.

Lichman and Rizov "Live" at Grassroots Tavern: Season 6, Episode 4, "The Fake It So Real Podcast"

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Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Season 6, Episode 4, “The Fake It So Real Podcast”
Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Season 6, Episode 4, “The Fake It So Real Podcast”

Hello Lincolnton, North Carolina!

The summer keeps going as we talk shop with Robert Greene and his new documentary Fake It So Real, which opens tomorrow at Rooftop Films in Brooklyn with a special post-screening wrestling match. We talk a bit about his previous doc, Kati with an I, and delve a bit into wrestling terminology just to make Vadim’s eyes gloss over like a good mark would.

Then we go into a minor spoiler about the film, which you’d otherwise never learn; the cinema of grown men slapping each other around; and the rather intimate presentation that Greene brings to the week-in-the-life of this cultural event that is slowly becoming more and more commercial despite the local roots of the thing. I’d also add [INSERT COMMENTARY ABOUT INDEPENDENT FILM AND WRESTLING HERE]. It’s very apt, no? But we go into the day-to-day of these men who want nothing more than a chance to break into an industry dominated by a single conglomerate (WWE) that does get name-checked—and has been in the news recently as one of their more high profile stars audibly broke character and then left.

True/False Film Festival 2011: Fake It So Real

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True/False Film Festival 2011: <em>Fake It So Real</em>
True/False Film Festival 2011: <em>Fake It So Real</em>

A surprisingly welcome respite from the shimmering hi-def images of most of this year’s True/False docs, the grainy, autumnal hues of Robert Greene’s Fake It So Real offer a nice counterpoint to the bleating that opens the film. Greene’s follow up to last year’s indelible, uncommonly gentle Kati with an I begins with a sequence of close-ups of minor-league professional wrestlers in roomy chokeholds and bogus pain.

As he did with Kati with an I (starring his half-sister), Greene shot most of Fake It So Real (co-starring his cousin) in just a week. It’s set in rural North Carolina, among a group of big-gunned, kindhearted wrestlers who put on biweekly shows in churches and grange halls. It is, in the wake of The Wrestler, almost too much of a no-brainer of an idea for a documentary, but there’s no drug abuse and there are no staple guns in this film. (In fact, the wrestlers pride themselves on being a family-friendly alternative to other leagues in the state.) Amid the chokehold montages and extended conversations of the cast discussing and tiptoeing around homophobia, Greene’s film is imbued with empathy.