"Jazz is dead," according to one of the men interviewed in Robert Greene's Fake It So Real. Thus, it's disqualified from being considered the great American art form. His suggestion as to its successor? Why, wrestling, of course.
If sincerity and commitment are the markers of success, the subjects of the new documentary Fake It So Real, members of the independently run MWF (Millennium Wrestling Federation, naturally), are about as successful as they come. But, despite the film culminating in a billing advertised as the MWF World Championship, these men are most certainly at the lower end of the food chain in the wrestling world; the league is based entirely in Lincolnton, North Carolina, where ALL of their wrestling events (including the "world championship") play out in front of tiny hometown crowds.
It's an affectionate look at a particularly American strain of small town ambition, capturing an overzealous adherence to the foggy notion that time and effort in the ring will bear out results. You could easily label it hoping against hope but most of these men can't even acknowledge how difficult of a path they've chosen. The majority of the wrestlers featured here still believe in their dreams of big time wrestling circuit success, although a few are content with just doing what they love; one guy, singled out as the most "normal" of the pack by a peer, calls it his "hobby."
All of this is filtered through a series of characters, ranging from a "rookie" paying his dues as he undergoes constant fraternal hazing to the league's manager whose emerging health issues cause him to miss his first match in ten years. Greene practices a warts and all approach to documenting his subjects; the hazing mentioned above includes a hefty amount of homophobic rhetoric (present elsewhere in the film, too) and his camera bears witness to more than a few misguided racial stereotypes exhibited in and out of the ring. It'd be easy to react against the film for containing these moments, but I'm inclined to praise Greene for choosing to not filter out the harsher aspects of the southern reality encountered here.
Bottom line, Fake It So Real entertains because hopes and dreams still power most people's conception of the American experience. Who cares if the ones on display in the film are more than a bit outlandish? It's almost impossible to resist cheering this band of brothers as they ply their chosen trade, willfully ignoring the odds against them.
Fake It So Real plays one-night-only at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, April 27th. More info available here.
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