If you are involved with boxing, Hall of Fame boxing trainer Ivry Hall is a familiar name. To fans of the sport, he’s immortalized as one of the most important figures in Chicago’s rich history.
Hall has produced countless champions, including Chicago’s last amateur champion, Andrew “Six-Time” Lewis. He ran boxing rings in the same venues where the Civil Rights Movement was born and fought against racism. Ivry Hall befriended Muhammad Ali and helped him learn how to box before he even turned professional. He trained Muhammad Ali’s shadow, George Foreman. Ivry Hall was the man who taught the world that “a champion is made in the kitchen.”
Boxing documentary profiles are a dime a dozen, but Jake Oleson’s gritty profile breaks through the noise via beautiful style and kinetic action. A young boxer guides his protégé through his past growing up in the South Side of Chicago. Oleson leans into the underdog and inspirational tropes of the genre, but emerges on the other side with something genuinely heartfelt and inspiring.
“When dealing with familiar material like this, it’s so easy to overdo it, to lean on the crutch of saccharinity, which, ultimately, could result in the opposite effect and evoke a sense of falseness. Oleson manages to toe the line, showing restraint when necessary. He avoids traditional talking-head interviews, instead, relying on naturalistic voice-over from the protagonist, most of which was built around a conversation between Ivry and one of his students. Moreover, the film just doesn’t feel orchestrated. It’s hard to say whether this is because of Oleson’s deft directorial hand (again, the film is gorgeous to look at) or Ivry’s innate warmth and authenticity even as he performs scripted scenes, but, regardless of its cause, it’s impossible to deny that the final result is technically beautiful and emotionally moving.” – S/W Curator, Ivan Kander