Factory 25: Fake it So Real (2011) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Factory 25

American documentary filmmaker Robert Greene has been active in the nonfiction film media scene since the late 2000s, starting with his documentary feature Owning the Weather about climate control followed by Kati with an I which told the story of a teenage high school graduate.  With his third feature Fake it So Real produced in 2011, the filmmaker offered up a documentary film that posits itself nicely alongside such fare as Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, Beyond the Mat or GLOW as a snapshot of independent wrestling promotions and the lives of the performers in and out of the ring.  Following a ragtag band of North Carolinian wrestlers over the course of a week leading up to a show, the ensemble documentary unlike Hitman Hart isn’t about successful wrestlers who gained recognition but ordinary working-class Southerners who lead regular lives but for a short time give their all to the distinctly American art of wrestling.

Running about an hour and a half, Fake it So Real follows several characters including Chris Solar, Gabriel Croft, J-Prep, Mikado, Pitt, Keith Matthews and many more, all of whom spend days rehearsing and training their bodies for a show they will neither be paid or noticed for.  The story of a local wrestling outfit consisting of players purely in it for the passion rather than the money or career advancement, the film is at once a look at the indie wrestling scene, some of its key players and the importance of maintaining the so-called kayfabe where the line separating fiction from reality is blurred.  Still, the sights of these characters practicing in an empty parking lot well before the actual rental of the facility where the wrestling ring itself is to be assembled by the wrestlers is more than a little eye opening with respect to the indie wrestling promotional scene.

With Brooklyn based boutique label Factory 25, a subsidiary of Vinegar Syndrome, the 2011 digitally photographed documentary is for the first time available on a collectible blu-ray disc with plentiful extras including but not limited to deleted scenes, numerous commentaries including one with wrestling journalist Davie Shoemaker and a number of wrestling promos cut together by indie film darlings including but not limited to Alex Ross Perry.  While the popularity of the wrestling documentary form seems to be at its peak, with Vice programs like Dark Side of the Ring hitting their fourth season about controversies among top talents in the industry, it is refreshing to see a smaller homegrown portrait of average blue-collar workers from the deep South fighting tooth and nail to put on an unpaid wrestling show for a pretty small audience. 

Shot on digital video, the documentary at times can be a bit hard on the ears with characters from the deep South openly waxing homophobia and/or racism without trying and reminded me of some of the more off-color moments of The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia and its brand of hillbilly Hell.  There’s one character in this with an especially oversized butt who makes a remark sure to raise more than a few eyebrows among audience members.  But still, for good or for ill the film can’t help but join in on rooting for these guys who have their own respective sets of health issues before even stepping into the ring.  A movie about the shared passion for the art of wrestling and putting on a show for an audience whether it provides recognition or not, Fake it So Real is despite the momentary shocks to the ears in its way kind of heartwarming.  Think of it as Beyond the Mat by way of Hoop Dreams

--Andrew Kotwicki