Round three for Shadow Box film fest

Heather Hardy, left, and filmmaker Natasha Verma will be part of the panel on women’s boxing, Dec. 5, as part of The Shadow Box Film Festival. Following the panel, the documentary “Hardy” screens. COURTESY OF NATASHA VERMA PRODUCTIONS

Heather Hardy, left, and filmmaker Natasha Verma will be part of the panel on women’s boxing, Dec. 5, as part of The Shadow Box Film Festival. Following the panel, the documentary “Hardy” screens. COURTESY OF NATASHA VERMA PRODUCTIONS

BY SCOTTT STIFFLER  |  Whether it’s a primal act of brutality, a virtuoso display of artistry or both is a matter of personal taste — but that hasn’t kept skeptics and hardcore fans alike from cheering during the training montage of “Rocky,” wincing during “Raging Bull” slugfests or shedding tears during that deathbed plea in “The Champ.” Although Hollywood has made a killing by playing the sport’s victory/defeat dynamic for maximum effect, the narrative of those who devote their lives to boxing is rarely as clear-cut as what happens when two opponents touch gloves and come out fighting.

Now in its third year, The Shadow Box Film festival is heavy on fight game action, but even more intensely committed to filling the screen with bruising accounts of what it takes to win.

Documentaries are the backbone of this two-day festival, whose afternoon and evening screenings contain both shorts and feature-length work.

Alan Swyer’s “El Boxeo” is a broad study of the Latino experience in boxing, while Brin-Jonathan Butler’s “Split Decision: The Story of Guillermo Rigondeaux” follows one boxer’s journey from Cuba to the U.S. Set in the 1930s, “Babyface Goes to Hollywood: The Jimmy McLarnin Story” looks at the welterweight’s world championships, then traces his post-boxing foray into acting. This is a return for Irish director Andrew Gallimore, whose documentary on “Gentleman” Jim Corbett won Best Foreign Film at last year’s festival.

Screening on both days as part of the shorts collection, director Chris Cassidy’s “Sunnyside” takes a 1947-1977 look at the Sunnyside Garden fight club, where hundreds of careers were launched. Bobby Cassidy, U.S. Congressman Peter King, Harold Lederman, Lenny Mangiapane, Henny Wallitsch, Bob Duffy, Ron Ross, Gene Moore and many others from the fight game provide first-hand accounts and historical perspectives. “Watching this movie,” says Shadow Box executive director David Schuster, “you can almost smell the cigar smoke and taste the water-downed beer.” Many fighters and trainers with a direct connection to Sunnyside will attend a special 1 p.m. screening on Sat., Dec. 6, to participate in a Q&A session directly following the 30-minute film.

THE SHADOW BOX FILM FESTIVAL
Day and evening sessions
on Dec. 5 & 6
At the SVA Theatre
333 W. 23rd St. (btw. 8th & 9th Aves)
Tickets: $15 for day sessions,
$18 for evening, $40 for festival pass
Reservations: 1-800-838-3006
or brownpapertickets.com
Visit shadowboxfilmfestival.com
Twitter: @boxingfestival
Instagram: @shadowboxfilmfestival
Facebook.com/ShadowBoxFilmFestival

Demonstrating a respect and enthusiasm that still eludes many promoters and fans, the festival’s lone panel event (7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5) is devoted to women’s boxing — bookended by screenings of “Last Woman Standing” and “Hardy” (directors and subjects from both films will take part in the discussion, with audience input welcome).

Directed by Juliet Lammers and Lorraine Price, “Standing” is an entry from Canada that follows two friends as they compete for a single slot to represent their country in the 2012 Olympics (the first time women’s boxing was included as an official sport).

Closer to home, Natasha Verma’s “Hardy” champions the fight for gender equality, in and beyond the ring. Drawn to boxing as a means of empowerment after a traumatic event, Heather Hardy trains at Brooklyn’s legendary Gleason’s Gym while raising her daughter and negotiating a uniquely layered — but typically intense — relationship with her trainer. In a manner that lives up to the best drama Hollywood fiction can offer, Hardy achieves a series of stunning victories while remaining both grounded and hungry for more.

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