|This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2015. Here's an index to my reviews of 2015 films.|
In fact, while director Jake Lee quickly puts Chavez in front of the camera to explain to us why we're here and why we should care, it takes him three minutes to move on to someone else. The positive side is that Chavez must have run through this spiel many times because he comes across well and quickly covers a lot of ground. He started Chavez Boxing Gym back in 2004 to some decent success, but soon found kids who needed the environment he was providing but couldn't pay for it. He let some in for free but couldn't do the same for everyone he'd like because he was running a business not a charity. Phoenix magazine's article on the gym made the difference, bringing Chavez to the attention of a reader who suggested that he start a non-profit organisation, even bringing in a pro bono lawyer to get him a 501(c)(3) status. Now he runs the Chavez Boxing Foundation too, which helps more kids who need Chavez to mentor them, not only to succeed in the gym and the ring but also in life. It's why we have a movie.
Of course, it doesn't end up quite how it would for Van Damme, Rothrock or Lundgren, but that's not the point. The point is that it's refreshing to know that there are actual people like the heroes in outrageous action movies who we enjoy but never consider realistic. Chavez has far too much screen time and that hurts the film's credibility; over the entire running time, there are only two other people who speak to us and both of them are recipients of scholarships from the Chavez Boxing Foundation. The only objectivity comes from a brief news clip and that's not enough. I wish we could have had heard from people in the local community: politicians, neighbouring business owners or even former gang members. The biggest gap is surely the family of Melyssa Gastelum, one of Chavez's boxers who died in an accident and gave her name posthumously to that scholarship fund. Why couldn't Jake Lee find these people? Fortunately, Chavez himself is believably sincere and I hope this flawed film still helps him and his work.
Fighters Move Forward can be watched for free on Vimeo.