Friday, September 19, 2014

Does New ‘Fight Church’ Documentary Hit Below the Belt?

Review of the documentary, "Fight Church."
Poster for "Fight Church" (Film Harvest)
“The first time I ever watched Mixed Martial Arts was on television at a church-sponsored fight night party that my brother-in-law had invited me to while I was visiting family in Michigan,” says Bryan Storkel in a Daily Beast article he wrote earlier this week. “I sat through the first two or three fights, but I couldn’t stick with it. There was too much blood for my liking and in spite of the organized structure and rules; it still seemed a bit too barbaric for me.”

Storkel is co-director of Fight Church, a new documentary released this week that centers on the topic of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) within the Christian community. Not just Christians who fight, but also pastors who have built their churches and ministries around MMA. If this sounds odd to you, than you are not aware of how popular the sport has become over the years. It might also sound odd for a person initially repulsed by the sport would actually dedicate years of his life to capture it in a documentary, but that is kind of guy Storkel is.

Pastor vs. Pastor
Pastor vs. Pastor
Storkel’s last project, Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians film played at over 40 festivals and won 10 Best Documentary awards.  For this film, Academy Award winning director Daniel Junge was already working on Fight Church and asked Storkel to jump in. While neither is passionate about the subject matter, the two are passionate about creating well-made documentaries and here they succeeded again.


Fight church
Storkel and Junge followed a number of fighters for about three years and the stories that they were able to uncover is incredible. In the end, it is a fascinating and riveting work. It starts out pretty plainly showing young men practicing martial arts, praying together and supporting one another. After about ten minutes an interview with an older priest from New York is shown in his church explaining why he is dead set against the sport and explains while he feels that it should be stopped. The contrast between the two couldn’t be any bigger. You begin to wonder what the big deal is and why the priest is so concerned. So far, the fighters say a lot of great things about being strong and courageous with bible verses to match. Many of these ministries are used as an outreach to their local communities. However, the longer you watch, the more unsettling the whole thing becomes.