Split Decision

Conventional but well crafted, this advocacy documentary by Texas filmmaker Marcy Garriott examines the predicament of top-ranked featherweight boxer Jesus “El Matador” Chavez. As a Chicago teenager in the early 90s, Chavez was sent to prison for armed robbery and then deported to his native Mexico; later he crossed the border illegally and settled in Austin to train for a career in the ring, and his quest for the world championship has been complicated by renewed troubles with the U.S. immigration service. Garriott charts his trials and triumphs, both in the ring and in court, using fight footage, voice-overs from Chavez, and interviews with his relatives, his trainers, and legal experts. Her approach is fairly prosaic—recurring shots of a bullring underscore an obvious parallel—yet the uncomplicated Chavez ennobles the story with his sincerity and boyish enthusiasm.

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