UCSC professor's documentary to premiere at Mill Valley Film Festival

(Graphic courtesy of Gustavo Vazquez)
Gustavo Vazquez behind the camera, on location in Mexico for his documentary film "Que Viva La Lucha (Wrestling in Tijuana)"

Que Viva la Lucha (Wrestling in Tijuana)--a documentary by UC Santa Cruz assistant professor of film and digital media Gustavo Vazquez--will make its premiere at the 30th annual Mill Valley Film Festival on Saturday, October 13, at 2:30 p.m.

Simultaneously, the film will also be screened outdoors in a colonial plaza at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia in Mexico. And in November, the documentary will have its European premiere at the Filmstock-Luton International Film Festival in the UK.

"It's a one-hour video documentary that portrays the cultural tradition of Mexican wrestling at the border and explores social class and border culture through this mythical sport and spectacle," said Vazquez. "In Mexico, the wrestlers forge fictional mythological identities in contrast to their working-class backgrounds, while audiences reward them with superhero status."

Inspired by his fascination with the double identity of the wrestlers--ordinary people who transform themselves on weekends into larger-than-life characters--Vazquez spent three years working on the film. It was funded primarily through grants from UCSC's Arts Research Institute and the Academic Senate's Committee on Research.

"I'm interested in this social ritual in what I call the 'therapy of the poor,'" said Vazquez. "The arena is the forum where everyone--wrestlers and public alike--are allowed to unleash their demons. They're re-enacting mythological battles between good and evil."

Vazquez grew up in Tijuana and was a big fan of the Mexican wrestlers in his early years. Coincidentally, the most famous wrestler in Tijuana--"Rey Misterio"--was a childhood friend, but Vazquez never knew it because the mask he wore kept it a secret.

"For years I'd seen him in the ring, but until I did this piece and met him in person, I didn't know he was a kid I grew up with in the neighborhood," said Vazquez. "This connection opened a lot of doors."

Vazquez has been making independent films for the past three decades. His eclectic approach to filmmaking includes interdisciplinary projects, mixed genres, and experimental and traditional documentaries. He noted that his "mocumentary," The Great Mojado Invasion (The 2nd U.S.-Mexico War), created in collaboration with Guillermo Gomez-Pena, "is a classic Chicano sci-fi cult film that continues to be politically relevant to the global anti-immigrant hysteria and is consistently screened in festivals around the world."

Que Viva la Lucha (Wrestling in Tijuana) will be screened twice at the Mill Valley Film Festival: Saturday, October 13, at 2:30 p.m., at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael; and Sunday, October 14, at 4 p.m., at the 142 Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley.

Vazquez said he hopes that his film will get international distribution to call attention to the magical spectacle of Mexican wrestling. "For me, it's important to divulge the humor and sensibility of the Mexican people as manifested in this sport," he noted. "What I really want is to inspire people to live out their dreams--even if they have to live double lives."