Gaea Girls

Gaea Girls


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

At a time when wrestling as a sport is hardly taken seriously in the West, these Japanese girls give it everything they've got. Documentary makers, Jano Williams and Kim Longinotto, were allowed access to the training house of the Gaea group, where young girls are taught the indelicate art of inflicting pain. It is an exceptionally tough regime.

The chief coach is a professional fighter, whose own career depends on her popularity as a personality and a winner. Her attitude is uncompromising, offering no comfort to those who display a hint of sympathy towards their opponents. The result is extreme violence and heightened emotion inside the ring.

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The filmmakers chose two of the least likely students as their stars, a girl who is unmotivated and unfit and another with such low self-esteem that she admits she wants to become a wrestler because "they are so alive, they shine." She smiles shyly. "I can become someone who is noticed."

It seems barely possible that these girls will make it. The coach instills in them the mantra: "Don't give up." To do so is weakness and weakness is the enemy.

One of them escapes to freedom. The other is humiliated in front of her peers ("If you waste this chance, you will have nothing, you will be nothing"), in order to strengthen her resolve. There is a nasty, underlying, fascist feel to all this, which is not investigated.

Williams and Longinotto prefer an objective approach, rather than a proactive one. Many questions about the school and the women's wrestling scene remain unanswered.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Investigation into a school for female wrestlers in Japan.
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Director: Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams

Year: 2000

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2000

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