Inside Pulse 12

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: “Lucha Mexico” filmmakers Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz

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“The film is one of the [DOC NYC] fest’s most generous in terms of breadth —- there are revelations about the sport, its performers, and its fans every few moments, and the screen bursts with color and wild motion.” –The Village Voice

When The Village Voice is praising something related to the world of professional wrestling, you know it has to be great. In this case of Lucha Mexico, filmmakers Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz were given full access to a lot of talent within the world of lucha libre, telling the rarely-told stories of its inner-workings. Blue Demon Jr., Sexy Star, Jon “Strongman” Anderson, and El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo are amongst the participants as the film was shot in both Mexico and the United States.

Inside Pulse caught up with Alex and Ian for some exclusive Q&A about the making of the film, which opens in theaters on Friday, July 15. As true wrestling fans, they also opened up about which promotions they watch and which upcoming New York City wrestling events they plan on attending. For more info on Lucha Mexico, click on over to www.luchamexicofilm.com and/or follow the filmmakers on Twitter via @luchamexicofilm.

Wrestlers are known to be extremely secretive around fans and other outsiders. Was it difficult to get people on-board for your documentary?

Ian: The business is a little less secretive in the U.S. these days, but Mexico still has the masks and mystery. It was a fun and often frustrating thing to try and crack open. We spent a very a long time proving we wouldn’t betray their trust and make a negative expose of the business. We were going to show a lot of the nuts and bolts while also honoring their work.

Alex: I’d say the most challenging to follow were the masked wrestlers. They take their identity very seriously and are protective of the mask and their real face. Especially the big names like Blue Demon Jr. He was very supportive of us shooting, but there was always going to be a limit of how much we could capture and show. And as outsiders who wanted to spend as much time with them as possible, that limitation made it difficult.

Who were the first people willing to participate?

Alex: Some of the first wrestlers we met were actually the women, Faby Apache and Sexy Star, and AAA Luchadores. Then once we got into the Arena Mexico, home to CMLL, we met Strongman, who led us to Shocker and Fabian El Gitano. They were very generous with their time and we hit if off so well.

In filming dozens of interview subjects, presumably accumulating hundreds of hours of footage, was it ever difficult to figure out what the main story of the film was? Or did you have ideas going into the making of the film?

Ian: I wanted to make a wrestling movie forever, and had a pretty good idea what I hoped to accomplish. That said, we went to Mexico and began working with very open minds. Our main story with Shocker, Strongman and Fabian El Gitano wasn’t planned and took some time to find, but was clearly what we were looking for. Thankfully, it wasn’t something we had to search for in the edit.

Alex: This film was the most difficult I’ve ever done. It’s not that finding the story was hard, it was that we wanted to make an unconventional documentary, one that brought you into the world through various stories, presenting wrestlers you might only see once and never come back to again, while also focusing on recurring characters you get to know well. With so much material, finding that balance is the true challenge, and editing became a two-year process. Not to mention all the events that happened to our characters while making this film. Things change all the time, and we had to deal with some tragic set-backs, like the death of El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo.

Is there a particular message that you want viewers of the film to come away with?

Alex: I would love to know that people feel they’ve seen a different side of Mexico. Ian and I always talk about how the people in the US who have a completely negative view probably haven’t been there, and few have truly explored the country. If they did, they would know it’s as thriving and positive a culture as any. Mexico is our partner, and we should only be working to strengthen that bond.

Ian: Yeah, I do love Mexico and absolutely believe we should be growing closer, not creating divisions. On a somewhat lighter note, I also get pretty sick of people asking “is wrestling fake?” I think we know by now, and asking that is just a passive-aggressive way of putting wrestling down. If you don’t like wrestling, fine, but I always hope people who see it presented in a more honest and respectful light will at least admit that what these performers put themselves through is grueling and impressive. And if they’re doing it right, a lot of fun!

Was there a particular movie that inspired you to make this documentary? I mean, a lot of people may rush to think that Beyond The Mat inspires all wrestling-related documentaries…

Ian: I don’t think either of us had a particular movie in mind when making Lucha Mexico. But Beyond The Mat comes up all the time. There’s no doubt it’s the last big mainstream wrestling doc, and you can’t help taking that into consideration at some point. Still, without getting into the lengthier conversation about what it did right and all the things it did wrong, neither of us had any interest in repeating it.

Did making this movie turn you into more of a wrestling fan? Or did it do the opposite and make it harder to watch? 

Ian: I’ve been a fan almost my entire life, and this only deepened my appreciation. I could still go to Arena Mexico every week, and if I had the opportunity to shoot more shows and spend more time in that world, I would take it.

Alex:  This is what really introduced me to the world of wrestling, and I’m definitely a fan of the sport now. I have incredible admiration and respect for these athletes. I don’t think people know how hard they really work. I made lifelong friends in Lucha, and plan to see shows every time I visit Mexico.

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In touring this film around, have there been any great cases of a non-wrestling fan watching the movie, being captivated and them admitting that they were wrong about wrestling?

Alex: We’ve noticed that even the people who worked on it with us, those who had never thought much of wrestling, were truly entertained. They now want to see a real live show. That makes me very happy.

Ian: The nice thing is this film gives people an opportunity to appreciate wrestling without being a fan. Many non-fans have told us they came away with a much different feeling about it.

By choice, which wrestling companies do you follow?

Ian: I try to keep up with CMLL, since it’s on TV in New York City. Unfortunately, AAA isn’t. As for the U.S. promotions, I catch WWE, Lucha Underground, TNA when possible. If ROH had steady programming, I’d also be watching that. I wish I could keep up with all the major and minor promotions that only exist live and sometimes on the internet, like the really hardcore fans do, but there’s only so much time in the day.

Do you have a favorite live event that you have attended?

Alex: So many great shows! I’d have to say my first CMLL anniversary show was very special. I loved the energy of Arena Mexico. Totally packed and crazy! One of my favorite smaller shows was Blue Demon vs Oliver John for the NWA Heavyweight belt. I got to shoot around the ring, feeling the falls and seeing them wrestle man to man until they were just dead exhausted.

Ian: We definitely went to a lot of memorable shows, both massive events and small private matches. So my answer changes all the time. One of my favorite small shows pops up briefly in the film, a Trios match with Shocker that went totally off the rails as the wrestlers got very loose. There’s also a big arena show I love in Guadalajara, the “Beer Tuesdays” match where Ultimo Guerrero got in a fight with fans. We all ended up doused in Corona and no one is complaining.

Do you have tickets to any upcoming wrestling shows? 

Alex: Yes, I have some tickets for a show at Gleason’s Gym on July 23, and a few for the show at La Boom in Queens.

What turned you into a wrestling fan in the first place?  

Ian: I’ve often said that growing up in and around Stamford, CT, the longtime home to WWF/WWE headquarters, made it feel like our own local entertainment. My earliest wrestling memories are Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era. The Hulk Hogan rivalries with Andre The Giant and particularly Rowdy Roddy Piper made a big impression. I love the pageantry as much now as I did then.

Wrestling aside, what are some of your other hobbies?  

Alex: I can’t exactly say wrestling is my hobby. I love drawing, reading, and playing piano. Rarely do I have time for these things, of course, film consumes most of it.

Ian: I’ve said this before, but I love entertainment in all its forms. Wrestling is just one. My favorite thing, though, will probably always be to escape to a darkened movie theater and absorb myself in something I’ve never seen before.

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Do you have another film in the works?

Alex: Yes, I have a horror film/series that might be a mix of documentary and fiction. I’m also writing a script based on a book, and researching a documentary that will be a dark comedy. I’m not sure which one will happen first, depends on which one is easier to fund.

Ian: We’re always batting around different ideas, but funding dictates a lot of what we can pursue. I have several ideas, some fiction and some that simply can’t be done to my satisfaction as docs. So I’m working on a few scripts, including one that goes back to Mexico City. There’s also a documentary I’m dying to make, a portrait of a hugely influential artist I admire tremendously that I hope to turn into reality as soon as possible.

What needs to happen for you to feel like Lucha Mexico was a success? 

Ian: A big part of “success” for us was getting this to an audience. And we now have that opportunity, which is incredible. From this point on, all we can ask is that people see and support the film, and walk away from it having a new appreciation of lucha libre, the talent in the ring, and of Mexico in general.

Alex: You know, right now I feel pretty lucky. After all the years of hard work, and challenges we had making this film, finding Kino Lorber and Sol Y Luna is a dream come true for me.

Finally, any last words for the kids?

Alex: Go see Lucha Mexico on July 15th! Indie docs don’t always hit the big screen, so if you’re in any of the cities it’s opening, please come out and support it! And if you can’t make it, you can still see Lucha on cable, VOD or iTunes in the luxury of your home. Hopefully with the sound cranked!

Ian: And after you’ve seen the film, maybe even with us and Shocker at Nitehawk, IFC or MOMI, or any of the other special events we have planned, we hope to see you at a lucha show some day in the future!

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