“Mamachas del Ring” Review – 2010 New York Int’l Latino Film Festival

In 2005, Betty M. Park bought a magazine at an airport terminal kiosk in Bolivia.  Within the pages of Etiqueta Negra was a photo essay on “cholita” (indigenous women) wrestlers.  Thus, the idea for Park’s documentary, “Mamachas Del Ring,” was born as was the Korean American’s first foray into feature length film directing.

Behind the incongruous combination of cholita and wrestling with pollera skirts and bowler hats lies the story of a Bolivian woman, Carmen Rosa the Champion.  Right from the beginning of the documentary, the viewer is hit with the obstacles that Carmen Rosa faces with balancing wrestling, family and work (as a street vendor selling electrical outlets and locks).  Her husband, Oscar, begrudgingly supports her efforts by chasing away crazy fans at matches, and allowing her to spend time on the sport she loves, although he wishes she would spend more time taking care of the family and selling her wares.  As Carmen Rosa’s star, including those of several other cholita wrestlers, rises after a showcase on Peruvian television, it is quickly dimmed by a dispute with Don Juan Mamani, the director of the Titans of the Ring wrestling troupe that Carmen Rosa is a part of.  Now blacklisted by Mamani, Carmen Rosa along with renegade cholita wrestlers Julia and Yolanda try to strike it out on their own in the male-dominated world of wrestling.  In their attempt to succeed, they wind up stumbling into disorganization and in the end Carmen Rosa makes a crucial decision to salvage her family and marriage.

In “Mamachas Del Ring,” Park tries to piece together the plotlines of Carmen Rosa going up against the evil Mamani, the fading culture of the indigenous women of Bolivia and being a headstrong woman in a male-dominated society.  She makes the viewer feel sympathetic towards Carmen Rosa and her plight.  Besides Carmen Rosa’s duking it out with Mamani, the most interesting aspects of the movie are the discussions of the struggles of being a traditional versus modern Bolivian woman as well as being a female wrestler.

However, while the movie starts off strong, it begins to lack depth as it progresses and leaves holes; the fates of the two cholita wrestlers, Julia and Yolanda, are ultimately not known, nor is the outcome of the illegal wrestling match in Peru.  In addition, while the Claymation used to enhance Carmen Rosa’s story was hilarious, most of the wrestling sequences – including Carmen Rosa’s “battles” with Mamani – are shown this way, so if you are expecting a lot of live action wrestling sequences you will be very disappointed.

“Mamachas del Ring” screens at the New York International Latino Film Festival on July 29 and 31 (tickets), and as part of the 92Y Tribeca Outsider Sports Series on Aug. 5 (tickets).