HOOP DREAMS goes to the mat in this intimate, coming-of-age documentary about four members of a high-school wrestling team at Huntsville’s J.O. Johnson High School, a longstanding entry on Alabama’s list of failing schools.
Coached by teacher Chris Scribner, teammates Jailen, Jamario, Teague, and Jaquan each face challenges far beyond a shot at the State Championship: splintered family lives, drug use, teenage pregnancy, mental health struggles, and run-ins with the law threaten to derail their success on the mat and lock any doors that could otherwise open. Tough-love coach Scribner isn’t off the hook, either; he must come to terms with his own past conflicts while unwittingly wading into the complexities of race, class and privilege in the South.
Director Suzannah Herbert and Co-Director Lauren Belfer captured over 650 hours of footage during the course of the team’s final season to create this closely observed, deeply affecting depiction of growing up disadvantaged in America today.
INDEPENDENT LENS - PBS
Wrestle aired nationally on Independent Lens May 20th.
OSCILLOSCOPE FILMS, FIREFLY THEATER, & FILMS and EXHIBIT A present "WRESTLE" //
JAILEN YOUNG JAMARIO ROWE JAQUAN RHODES TEAGUE BERRES and CHRIS SCRIBNER //
Music by DAVID WINGO and GRAHAM LEBRON // Associate Editor BLAIR MCCLENDON // Edited by PABLO PROENZA //
Director of Photography SINISA KUKIC // Consulting Producer SAM POLLARD //
Executive Producers MICHELINE LEVINE STEVEN STREIT WALKER DEIBEL CHAD TROUTWINE //
Produced by LAUREN BELFER STEVEN KLEIN SETH GORDON MARY ROHLICH SUZANNAH HERBERT
// Written by LAUREN BELFER SUZANNAH HERBERT PABLO PROENZA //
Co-Directed by LAUREN BELFER //
Directed By SUZANNAH HERBERT
Festivals & Awards
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
included in the SF Launch Program
TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL
SIDEWALK FILM FESTIVAL
Best Alabama Film
Jailen Young: The Spirit of Sidewalk
BALTIMORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL
special Jury mention for Best Documentary Editing, Pablo Proenza
NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL
HOT SPRINGS FILM FESTIVAL
Best Sports Documentary
Hot Springs Audience Award
MILWAUKEE FILM FESTIVAL
INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL
The Ron Tibbet Award of Excellence in Filmmakers and
The Documentary Features Audience Award
DENVER FILM FESTIVAL
The Maysles Brothers Documentary Award
EAST LANSING FILM FESTIVAL
BAHAMAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Film
OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Film and
The Alice Guy-Blaché Award for Emerging Female Filmmaker
LA TIMES: Superb ‘Wrestle’ takes an intimate look at four high school athletes on a difficult path
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: “Just as sports mirror society, so do the best sports films not only take us inside games and those who play them but also provide insight into our world and how it works. “Wrestle,” a superb sports documentary, does exactly that…..comparisons to Steve James’ landmark “Hoop Dreams” are inevitable and legitimate.”
NYTIMES CRITIC’S PICK: ‘Wrestle’ Review: On the Mat, Fighting for a Future
ESPNW 'Wrestle' doc examines race and privilege in high school sports
ESPNW: Two by two, teammates carry each other up a steep hill in the opening scene of "Wrestle," a documentary that builds a poignant conversation on the inequities of life -- as it relates to race, class, education and opportunity.
THE PLAYLIST: ‘Wrestle’: A Striking Examination Of Race, Poverty & High School Sports In Alabama
THE PLAYLIST: “The intimacy that Herbert attains with the kids and the respect that she affords them prevents the film from ever seeming exploitative of their lives and hardships and rather gives it a thorough sense of empathy. These kids are never case studies. And while it is hard to prevent them from standing in as representative of the larger issues of race and class in America and in education, Herbert and Belfer are as interested in them as people, as athletes worth paying attention to, and as young men worth respecting.”
CRITERION CAST: “Through gorgeously composed verite-style shots, viewers become privy to everything from the smallest moments of immaturity like not understanding why one’s tone of voice could be seen as condescending or “smart,” or micro-aggressions that boil over into moments of violence either verbal or physical.”
WNYC Documentary pick of the week
THOM POWERS: “The backdrop of sports makes this film feel like a real life Friday Night Lights.”
NYTIMES: WHAT TO WATCH
INDEPENDENT LENS: WRESTLE (2019) 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). This moving portrait follows four members of a wrestling team at a high school in Huntsville, Ala., as they train for the state championship and battle personal woes along the way.
'Wrestle' is a Wrestling Documentary That Goes Beyond the Mat
NONFICS: “The filmmakers’ approach is very effective. By stepping back and capturing the subjects in the heat of the moment, the doc provides some telling insights into each person’s everyday struggle. As such, some scenes are quite illuminating.”
SHEILA O’MALLEY REVIEW
Wrestle includes sequences as gripping as any fictional “sports movie”, so much so I found myself clapping out loud at times, in frustration and excitement, urging one of the kids on to win, or gasping when one of them is defeated. This is intensified by a feeling of worry, a kind of, “My God, please let everyone be okay” thing which is difficult to manufacture, at least without sentimentality or manipulative uplift.
“Wrestle” Is An Engrossing Documentary About Poverty, Sports, And More
HOLLYWOOD NEWS: “Depending on how the year shakes out, Wrestle has a chance to be remembered at the end of 2019 when awards season kicks into gear. If nothing else, it seems like something that the Academy would short-list as the precursors are going on. It has a unique conceit, it’s about an issue, and will remind voters of one of their worst snubs ever. Anyone who regrets not getting Hoop Dreams into the field may want to go for this and right that wrong. It’s way too early to figure Best Documentary Feature out, obviously, but my year in advance predictions may well include it in the race.”
'Wrestle': HOLLYWOOD REPORTER Film Review
OSCILLOSCOPE Picks Up Sports Doc 'Wrestle'
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Oscilloscope’s Dan Berger says, “There’s a reason Wrestle keeps collecting audience awards at film festivals. At a challenging time in our society in so many ways, Suzannah and Lauren’s film, and their subjects, tackle major issues in an intimate way and it never feels defeatist.”
OSCILLOSCOPE Doubles Down On Docus With ‘Wrestle’
DEADLINE: “Oscilloscope Laboratories, the production and distribution company founded by Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys, has picked up the North American rights to a pair of documentaries: Wrestle, the Suzannah Herbert- and Lauren Belfer- directed film about high school wrestlers.”
WRESTLE takes home the Maysles Brothers Doc Award
WRESTLE wins TWO awards at Indie Memphis
21 things to do at the 21st Indie Memphis
"Directed by Memphis' own Suzannah Herbert, "Wrestle" — which embeds the viewer with a quartet of Hunstville, Alabama, high-school wrestlers — is a documentary about sports, youth and identity that deserves to be mentioned alongside "Hoop Dreams." (If the 2011 Memphis football film "Undefeated" can win the Best Documentary Oscar, why not "Wrestle"?) Herbert will attend."
Indie Memphis Film Festival raises a 'Rukus'
"An outstanding documentary, "Wrestle" essentially embeds viewers with the wrestling team at a failing Huntsville, Alabama, high school. We'd say the film offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective, except a fly likely wouldn't be able to sculpt 650 hours of footage into a gripping 96 minutes of compassionate portraiture that suggests not only the much-acclaimed "Minding the Gap" but the current Starz high-school documentary series, "America To Me," from Steve "Hoop Dreams" James."
WRESTLE takes home Best Sports Feature and the Hot Springs Audience Award
"This documentary's intimate and personal cinematography and elegant editing impressed us and revealed a true mastery of craft. Through a contained story, the directors illuminated global truths and displayed tremendous patience, allowing the viewer to lean in and engage with both flawed and remarkable people at once. This film tells the story of Alabama teenagers attempting to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.”
PABLO PROENZA receives a Special Jury Mention
Pablo Proenza receives a Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Film Editing at the Woodstock Film Festival
Under the Lights awards grant to wrestling team
"Today the Under the Lights Foundation awarded it’s first ever grant to the Mae Jemison High School wrestling team. A few weeks ago, some board members and I went to see the documentary “Wrestle” at the Sidewalk Film Festival. ...I want to give a special thanks to the directors behind the documentary “Wrestle” – Suzannah Herbert and Lauren Belfer. Your film inspired me and the board of the foundation to reach out and award this first grant to the wrestling program."
SIDEWALK FILM FESTIVAL RECAP
"Not to play favorites but Wrestle was one of my favorite films of the weekend. Although it’s a documentary, it’s framed in a way that builds a great narrative....I found myself rooting for these kids and begging for a happy ending. Herbert and Belfer are clearly talented and this documentary should be high on your list of films to watch for 2018."
WRESTLE wins BEST ALABAMA FILM @ Sidewalk FF
JAILEN YOUNG awarded the SPIRIT OF SIDEWALK
FILMMAKER CLOSE UP: WRESTLE
"It’s important to understand the South and its people and struggles because I think it’s a reflection of the greater American condition and vast amount of work we all have to do on the road and fight towards equality and freedom."
INDIEWIRE: 2018 Rooftop Films Summer Series Lineup
North Side Bloomin'
VARIETY Film Review: Wrestle
VARIETY: "An engrossing docu..." "in the mode of Hoop Dreams and Friday Night Lights." "Despite being a warts-and-all portrait, Herbert and Belfer’s film is suffused with an unsentimental empathy for primarily African-American subjects who immediately transcend any 'thug' stereotype."
REELY DOPE Film Review: Wrestle
REELY DOPE: "In its sobering conclusions, Wrestle has us question how much we undervalue poor children’s lives, circumstances and education in this country... Belfer, Herbert & co. were able to hone in on their slices of life without painting too broad a brush or making too simple a point for a complex and nuanced situation. It’s a feat that few filmmakers can achieve with honesty... It’s clear that Belfer, Herbert and their team are among those who can with true efficacy and artistry."
FILMMAKER MAGAZINE:SFFILM Announces Launch PrograM
FILMMAKER MAGAZINE: SFFILM announces the five titles that will comprise its 2018 Launch Program, an initiative intending to highlight for the industry a select group of world-premiering films drawn from different sections of the San Francisco International Film Festival.