Cosmopolitan Magazine (France, May 2011)
"This film's greatness is that it shows how excruciating it is to be a wrestler. Especially outside the ring." - Cynthia Ellis
Vanity Fair Italy. Next to Terry Gilliam, across the page from Jason Reitman and Milos Forman. Needless to say, flattered to be included in the mix.
La Repubblica XL, June 2010
By David Burger
If you're like me, you've always wondered what is must be like to be a woman wrestler in the male-dominated world of Bolivian professional wrestling.
Now, thanks to first-time director Betty M. Park and the Slamdance Film Festival, we can find out.
Park's first full-length feature, "Mamachas Del Ring," is competing at Slamdance in the documentary feature category. Set in the Andes, the 75-minute film follows the story of Carmen Rosa, an indigenous woman who battles male wrestlers as well as her husband's ultimatum that she needs to choose either wrestling or her family.
Betty M. Park is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker who spends her days working in TV as a producer and editor, and her nights making independent films.
She answered some questions about her foray into films and why she chose the unusual subject, which screened on Jan. 26.
What challenges did you encounter making your first film that you didn't anticipate?
I think the biggest challenge has been finding the right people to help champion the film and get it out there. As a first timer, I was initially completely focused on the creative end of it, but there is a whole other process of finding ways for people to actually see the film that is as much work, if not more, than finishing the film.
What was your reaction to being accepted at Slamdance?
Jaw drop, quickly followed by silently dancing around the living room while trying not to drop the phone.
How has your Slamdance/Park City experience been so far?
My first screening was on Saturday night, and the audience reaction was palpable. I didn't expect people to react so strongly, so it was a real pleasure.
How did you first learn about Carmen Rosa, and why did you decide to make a film about her?
I first encountered the cholita wrestlers when I was traveling down in Peru and Bolivia, through a photo essay in a magazine. Seeing the image of an indigenous Bolivian woman in her traditional clothing flying through the air completely captured my imagination: Who were they? How did they come to wrestle? How do those hats stay on their heads? I knew that I was staring at a documentary waiting to be made.
What do you want people to take away from seeing your film?
I think most people would be drawn to this film because it seems like such an odd phenomenonan indigenous woman in a flouncy skirt throwing down in the ring -- but what I really want people to leave with is an understanding of Carmen Rosa's struggle as a woman living in a macho society. And as a person who is torn between something she intensely loves and the obligations she has in her personal life. They are two things I connect with personally, and I hope other people will be able to relate to it as well.
By Willa Paskin
After The Wrestler, Nacho Libre, Rocky, When We Were Kings, and scores of other films about hand to hand combat, you would be forgiven for thinking there's nothing that could go down in a ring you haven't seen before. You would be wrong. Check out the awesome trailer for Mamachas Del Ring, a documentary about four indigenous Bolivian women who became national sensations when they began wrestling in their country's main league, in petticoats and bowler hats, thank you very much. Carmen Rosa, one of the wrestlers, is the star of the film, and though her moves are impressive (really, watch some of those flips), her dedication is even more so. After appearing on Peruvian television in 2006, she and her fellow female wrestlers were kicked out of the Bolivian league, despite being fan favorites and obviously, patently amazing. The four Mamachas decide to start their own league and organize their own shows ("We don't want to be managed by a man, because he exploited us too much. We want to be independent."), committing to running a fledgling business while keeping their day jobs (Rosa works as a street vendor) and taking care of their families. "Sometimes I love wrestling more than my family," Rosa says, which makes her husband's ultimatum, to choose between wrestling and her family, all the more heart wrenching. Seriously, forget Harry Potter and all the remaining summer blockbusters; this is the only movie I really need to see this season.
A skirt flying through the air, the same skirt (pollera) that is so characteristic of cholas in Bolivia, is the fetishistic element that defines the group of female Bolivian wrestlers that North American director Betty M. Park portrays in a touching documentary about the struggles of these women inside and outside of the ring.
by Guadalupe Treibel
Carmen Rosa, aka The Champion, wrestlesthe sport of the Godsas a woman, an Aymara and a chola. Without disguise, she proudly wears her pollera and embraces her role in the community. Carmen recognizes the limits of her body and clothing because she feels totally rejected in her dress. It is through physical force that she defines her place, through a barrage of punches.
A superhero without a disguise, she knows that wearing the pollera causes alienation. "If we take it off, people treat us well," says the protagonist of the 74-minute documentary. But The Champion embraces where she comes from and turns it around, shaking things up: since 2004 she has made her name as a wrestler in a traditionally macho sport. With a skirt and everything.
"Just because we're women, people think that we're not strong but it's not like that," The Champion says at the beginning, as she beats up a man who has accused her of insulting her Aymaran roots. She answers him in between a series of devastating right hands: "who's ashamed now?" Admitting that she's more passionate about wrestling than even her family, Carmen Rosa paves the way for herself and her wrestling colleagues and will lose more than just one round against her nemesis, Don Juan Mamani, the businessman who monopolizes the wrestling venues and denies opportunities to the women. Of course, there are other obstacles as well: the approval of her husband (wrestling vs. family), the basic support of her peers, and the government's support of the "bad guy", Don Juan Mamani. The question becomes: how much can Carmen Rosa take?
Making its world premiere at the BAFICI, Mamachas del Ring was inspired by a trip: "In 2005, I was traveling in Perù and Bolivia and I came across an article about these women. I was interested and began to do some research. A year later, I came back to start filming," says Park who, at 32 years old, debuts with a documentary thatwith or without meaning tobrings up many questions about feminine dignity and the need for a calling.
In Argentina for the first time, the New York nativewho works as an editor at MTV USA during the weeksees the wrestling cholas as a symbol of pop culture. "Sometimes, people don't understand it, but they're part of our modern tradition," she claims.
Park discovered that one of the biggest obstacles during the shoot (which included a crew of just her and a cameraman) was making people understand that it was a personal project with a miniscule budget and that she wasn't there to make a profit from their stories. Self-financed, she flew to Argentina for the festival with the master print hot off the presses: "I finished it on Monday, after three years of post-production, and on Tuesday there I was with the movie in hand," recalls the director, daughter of Korean parents, and a graduate of the prestigious UC Berkeley.
Beyond telling a story that is at once entertaining and heart wrenching, the strength of Mamachas del Ring comes from the use of stop motion animation, with mini clay figures describing Carmen's feelings through wrestling matches and the metaphoric use of the ring. The animation is used to generate a third filmic "reality": the one that mixes Carmen's role as a mother and vendor of electrical plugs, her role as an Ayamaran woman, and her role as a wrestler who seems to do it all. As an extra touch, the soundtrack brings in the melancholy and raspy voice of the Argentine singer, Juana Molina, which adds just the right amount of emotion.
Because Carmen's story is sad. It has to be. It's not easy for her to reconcile her family obligations with her desire to wrestle, her job with her need to fly, kick, and bleed, and to do all of this freely, without owing anything to anyone. Her struggle is an honest one and even though Park says that she didn't want to take sides, it's clear that she identifies herself with this woman/character, The Champion, who, in her own words, "is a natural born leader." And she adds: "Carmen takes wrestling seriously. She is the one who works hardest so that everything goes well, she puts in the most energy. Because of that, when I was shooting, I really wanted a happy ending, for the heroine to defeat Gitano, the successful business man." Will she win?
Ironically, the shoot began without Carmen Rosa. "In the beginning, I spoke with the cholas who were with Gitano. I didn't even know about the others, the original, authentic ones. When I found out, I had to change what I was doing, as we were doing it. And that's how I met my protagonist, who is definitely a natural leader," Park concludes.
Because the newly arrived Park approached the "official" group that, not much earlier, had included the best women wrestlers, with Carmen Rosa at the head. Gitano had trained them and brought them glory but suddenly kicked some of them out and The Champion followed them. Out of a sense of honor. And that's how they began to look for a different way, their own way.
In order to replace these women, Mamani looked for clones: female wrestlers who, despite not being cholas, used the bowler hat, the mantilla, and the sacred skirt and were showered with applause and recognition. Those are their masks. The Champion, in contrast, doesn't use a mask. Her skirt is the story of a woman who is an Aymara and cholita. And a wrestler.
Behind the scenes at the festival, where you can hear the gossip and rumors that, together, make and shape the consensus about a film, people are talking about a smalland improbablediscovery: Mamachas del Ring, another film about wrestling, but without Mickey Rourke, and with action taking place a long way away from the US. In fact, the titans of this ring are a group of Bolivian cholas, women more usually associated with streetside spice stalls. (Entered into the Cinema of the Future competition.)
This is a jewel of independent North American cinema, which had its world premier at Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente.
Carmen Rosa (alias "The Champion") has to confront the world alone, overcoming twin prejudicesagainst her as a woman, and as a chola (indigenous Bolivian woman). She lives in La Paz, Bolivia, and there is a sport she loves: lucha libre, or wrestling. Together with two friends, who are also cholas, they rapidly turn themselves into a success story that transcends the borders of their own country.
But nothing would be easy for them, particularly after they were forced to take their careers in their own hands when their manager rejected them for other, more ‘professional' wrestlers (or rather ‘submissive', which amounts to the same thing in this case).
From there Betty Park shows us how dreams are lived on the periphery: no happy endings, no great revelations. Just a woman who wants to do what she loves, and who sacrifices everything to do it.
We had the opportunity to see two films that have female protagonists. One involving Bolivian women, and another with a Russian woman in La Mére.
Women who take an active role in their own lives and the lives of their families and their community, raise other issues with their politics.
Mamachas of the Ring, having its world premiere at the Festival de Cine Independiente in Buenos Aires, allows us to look into an unknown universe of Bolivian women fighters who are dedicated to wrestling. In a world where they suffer double discrimination, as women and as cholas, indigenous Aymaran women of the "pollera," they are reluctant to use and dress pants or hide their culture and customs.
Along her way, a character will emerge who will develop the business more rationally, which will become the cause of the main character's decline and inability to meet the public. The relationship between the two is represented with stop-motion animation, which creates a rhythmn and particular aesthetic to this documentary, which in any case, begins with a pineapple, almost like a note of color, and finishes talking about women who do not want to surrender, but can no longer fight.
With interviews of the protagonists and following the course of the star-star and campaigner, Carmen Rosa the Champion, Korean Betty M. Park, director of the film, shows the social and economic context of these women, their families and the public throughout the poorest neighborhoods of La Paz and Oruro.
I went to see Mamachas del Ring, a documentary by Betty M. Park about Bolivian cholitas that fight to be recognized as wrestlers. The film is excellent and highly recommended: showing how hard it is for women to do what they want, Park's work shows the twists and turns of Carmen Rosa " The Champion" with tenderness and feminine sensibility, a discovery that is fun and moving at the same time. I liked it because it has a story to tell, without condescension or pride, and though it provides no answers of any kind, it shows the weight of a painful question that Bolivian society (and not only in Bolivia) is responsible for answering. A simple and majestic joy, narrated with different variants and a respect rarely seen in lewd documentaries, where the boundaries are sometimes blurred in favor of excessive realism.
APUNTES DEL BAFICI I: "MAMACHAS EN EL RING"
27 March 2009
I helped out on the world premiere of this film, which I really liked and which recounts the story of four Bolivian chola wrestlers. Yes, it's just what you're thinking: cholas flying through the ring and beating each other up. I find it extremely moving that the director, who's Japanese-American [sic] was actually at ringside during the bouts at those little backwoods Bolivian towns.
Mamachas del Ring, by Betty M. Park, tells the story of a group of wrestlers who take up professional wrestlingfour cholas who, by entering the ring, were going against all convention. Everything seemed to be going well until The Gypsy, an evil businessman, started playing them off against each other. The villain of the piece seems to be putting it on, but it's all real. The director used stop-motion animation to reconstruct some of the protagonists' experiences, and this device adds even more beauty to the film. In some moments, it is an allegory against machismo; at others, it seems to be ‘100% wrestling', but with ladies in skirts. At times, it reminds you of ‘Celebrity Deadmatch'. It's a very fine line between fact and fiction in the documentarybut what does it matter whether everything in the film is true or not? Either way, it's hugely enjoyable, and to be strongly recommended. Rating: 8 out of 10
By Rosaura Audi, Buenos Aires, 27
"I'm trying to raise up the name of Bolivia, the pollera, and the Aymaran woman," Carmen Rosa declares in the documentary, "Mamachas del Ring," by US filmmaker Betty Park. It is a film about a group of wrestling cholas, one that had its world premiere at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film. This statement by Carmen Rosa, aka "The Champion," leads the spectator to believe that her occupation is perhaps a part of an indigenous ritual that has been passed down through the generations. Far from that, the uniqueness of the documentary, which screened on Thursday, is that she and the other cholas climb into the ring to win, drawing blood and inflicting pain, and all the while contributing to the show with their traditional polleras and bowler hats.
In reality, Carmen Rosa, Julia La Paceńa, Martha La Alteńa, and Yolanda la Amorosa have been wrestling since 2003, touring the country for an audience that can barely pay the price of admission. The film begins in 2006, right after their return from a successful trip to Peru, where they made an appearance on TV. This immediately fostered envy and jealousy that not only created a rift between the cholas but a confrontation with El Gitano, the man who had been their trainer and who discovers that the phenomenon is going beyond his control.
But Carmen Rosa, like the other cholas, isn't just a wrestler. She is a mother, wife, and worker who spends a lot of time in the ring, and this dilemma is also addressed in the film. These "women of the polleras" entered Betty Park's life in 2005 after a vacation in Perù and Bolivia. In the airport, as she was about to leave, she came across a Peruvian magazine called "Etiqueta Negra". In it was a photo of the women and as she told ANSA, she couldn't stop thinking about it. "I think that part of it was visually interesting for me and I also thought that there had to be a story behind these people," claims Park, who returned to Bolivia in 2006 to shoot for three months. The film was in post-production until this year, a delay that she attributes to a lack of resources and a lack of time to bring the project to an appropriate conclusion.
The film, which integrates claymation into the narrative, is dedicated to highlighting the struggles of the three of the mamachas, as they try to return to the ring after their separation from "El Gitano." For Betty Park, that detail is important because it reiterates what wrestling means for these women. "If I hadn't told that, the spectator would not have realized how important it is for them to try to return to where they had been before and ‘El Gitano' gives more context for the difficulties that they encountered trying to do that," Park notes.
Regarding her decision to show the film for the first time at BAFICI, she said: "On the one hand, it was the right moment because I finished the film just before the festival, but I also wanted to bring it to Latin America first. And because it's a festival for independent film." And, to be sure, these kinds of peculiar films about unknown themes and unknown places all over the world have been characteristic of the BAFICI over the past ten years. "Mamachas del Ring", along with 12 other films, is part of the human rights section of the festival.
Mamachas del Ring, by Betty M Park (2009, 74 minutes, US-Bolivia). This documentary follows the progress of Carmen Rosa The Champion, a Bolivian chola who does lucha libre wrestling, and who, along with three other wrestlers, created the wrestling team that gives the film its title.
The documentary has a classic, somewhat televisual structure. The director harnesses the immediate empathy that the protagonist generates to put together a kind of soap opera of comings and goings, betrayal, doubt, love and hate, across which she plants themes that interest one, like the crossroads of the cholas who love wrestling more than their families that call on them, or their rebellion against a manager who exploits then and then discards them.
Mamachas is full of humor, particularly in the stop-motion animation scenes, and doesn't pretend to be serious anthropology. But nor does it mock its eccentric female protagonists: it makes a serious point among the apparent superficiality, without falling into the picturesque. The director, an American of Korean descent, is present at the festival accompanying her film, which had its world premier here. CYNTHIA SABAT
The first film I saw at the festival was Mamachas del Ring. Think The Wrestler, but documentary instead of fiction, and Bolivian cholas with huge colorful skirts instead of Mickey Rourke. With more blood, heroes and villains, and melodramatic twistsnot to mention crazy stop-motion animationthan The Wrestler, you simply have to see it!
Have you ever heard of cholitas wrestling in pollera skirts? Whatever the answer, you have to go see this filma world premiere at the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independientein which director Betty M. Park follows Carmen Rosa, the great artiste of Bolivian lucha libre wrestling. Rosa, who also made a name for herself in Peru, emerges as one of the best non-fiction characters ever to have been portrayed in a documentary. From the stop-motion animation to the twists and turns of the live-action documentary, the conflicts that a female wrestler faces shed light on several levels of Bolivian society, from machismo to the validity of indigenous culture, while at the same time building a popular tale of suspense with a genuine Latin American flavor. This flying kick-propelled journey may be the most political, and most fun, film to come out of the Evo Morales era.
SUITE 2046 amigo, Betty M Park, will be premiering her ass-kicking documentary Mamachas del Ring in Argentina this week as part of the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente. The workaholic Park's labor of love tells the story of Carmen Rosa, a cholita wrestler who battles discrimination, sexism, poverty, and backstabbing (among other setbacks) while trying to make it in the male-dominated world of Bolivian lucha libre. Chock full of eye-opening shots like braided indigenous women dressed in petticoats body-slamming each other, I can pretty much guarantee you've never seen anything like it. This awesome doc also features Christophe Lopez-Huici's labor-intensive stop-motion animation. Big clay thumbs way up! Keep an eye out for a stateside premier, and become a fan on Facebook. Thanks for inspiring us to keep on truckin'!
But that's not the extent of all that's bizarre at the festival: whatever you do, don't miss Mamachas del Ring, Betty M Park's documentary about Bolivian cholas and the world of professional lucha libre.