Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Touch Gloves

Grade : A- Year : 2016 Director : Felipe Jorge Running Time : 1hr 14min Genre :
Movie review score

When you’re watching a documentary, you can almost certainly be guaranteed of one thing- that it will be about a subject the filmmaker is passionate about. It’s arguably the one filmmaking medium where a studio suit doesn’t assign a project to a filmmaker, but the filmmaker brings the film to the studio. Whether it’s from Werner Herzog or Michael Moore or Steve James or a more independent, scrappy voice like Felipe Jorge, the director of “Touch Gloves,” there’s something within them that felt this story needed told, and whether they are an established name or someone looking to make their name, they do what they can to make that happen. Once you realize that, I think the medium opens itself out to you, and you can find yourself more receptive to it.

“Touch Gloves” is the second film of Jorge’s I’ve seen; the first, “The Comic Book Palace,” had a similar feel, even if it was about a very different subject matter. “Touch Gloves” focused on Ray Hebert and his Haverhill Downtown Boxing in Haverhill, MA, and takes us into the mindset of Hebert and others who help run the boxing gym. We see them working with boxers of all ages, all sizes, and both genders, whether they are there just to get a good workout or to actually box on the amateur circuit, and maybe, one day, professionally. Hebert looks at all of the people that come into the gym the same, works with them with the same passion, and sees a larger good in what he and the other trainers are doing there. This isn’t just about boxing but about making the community better, and these boxers better as individuals. We see them training in the gym, and we see several of them in the ring at competitions, and the feeling recalls that experienced in something like “Hoop Dreams” or even a work of fiction like “Rocky” or “Creed” as we see the fighters showing what they have, albeit some more than others.

The people are the ones that draw us into documentaries more than the stories being told, and Hebert is a compelling figure to watch. He’s very old-school in his approach, and he doesn’t try to pump up his fighters too much; one of the cardinal sins his fighters could commit in the ring is showboating during a fight, and we see exactly how he reacts when one of his fighters does just that. He ended up winning the fight (barely), but it’s what he needs to work on that stands out to Ray rather than what he did well. Spoken like a true teacher. He pulls no punches with anyone that comes into his ring, and Jorge’s straight documentation of Ray’s world is fascinating and entertaining to experience.

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