The Cage Fighter: What It Takes To Be A Better Man
Friday afternoon the New Hampshire Film Festival continued its spectacular programming with Jeff Unay’s The Cage Fighter that played at The Music Hall. A verité documentary follows Joe Carman, blue collar worker by day, mixed martial arts fighter by night, who returns to fighting against the wishes of his family.
The Cage Fighter is a directorial debut for Unay who built his reputation working on visual effects in Avatar and King Kong and shooting short documentaries. Filmed over three years, the film is an intimate portrait of a man torn between his obligations as a father, husband, and son and his utter conviction that only in the fighting cage does he become the best possible version of himself. Joe begins training in secret – he promised his wife and daughters to quit fighting for good. When truth comes out, Joe must find a way to keep his family together, while facing the terrifying advances of old age and possible damage to his health.
Though not professional actors, Joe and his family infuse the documentary with honesty and emotion. As he moves between his daytime job at Washington State Ferry, his gym, and his house with four daughters, Joe embodies a complex idea of masculinity: he is strong, but never violent; driven to perfection but accepting of his shortcomings; reserved but deeply sensitive when it comes to his family. Joe’s daughters provide a wonderful balance to the film. Whether they attend his bout or argue over his decision to go back to fighting, their actions are driven by resolute love for their father.
The Cage Fighter won Point North Pitch Forum at 2015 Camden International Film Festival and was picked up by IFC Films for U.S. distribution. Unay wrote the screenplay and co-produced the documentary with James Orara.
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