FunAstrology"Luchadoras": Women defy danger in Mexico

"Luchadoras": Women defy danger in Mexico

In “Luchadoras” it quickly becomes clear how dangerous the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez is, especially for women. All the more impressive are the fighters that the film is about.

Ciudad Juárez – The desert in the border region between Mexico and the USA is an iconic place of the chilling variety. She stands for danger, for the sudden end of dreams, for disappearance, for death.

It is a place where human remains are constantly being discovered. In a scene from the new film Luchadoras, the main characters conquer the desert, at least temporarily.

In the documentary by Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, they confidently walk across the sand dunes wearing colorful masks and costumes. The women look like superheroes – but they are disguised because they are Lucha Libre fighters. The fact that they hold their own in martial arts – the Mexican variant of wrestling – which is characterized by macho posturing, makes them look all the more like superheroines. And that in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, especially for women: Ciudad Juárez.

The film title “Luchadoras” (fighters) describes the protagonists in two senses: They fight in the ring as well as outside – for survival, for a better life for their children. The main characters are three fighters who are only introduced by their Lucha names: Lady Candy, Baby Star and Mini Sirenita.

The filmmakers had a local contact: a childhood friend of Jasim’s, Kathrin Zeiske, who lives in Ciudad Juárez and acts as a luchadora under the name Miss Kath. Calvo and Jasim, who know each other from studying film in Berlin, took the time to find and get to know their protagonists before they started shooting in 2019. This created a very intimate relationship with them, says co-director Calvo of the German Press Agency.

This is noticeable in scenes where the camera is very close to the women in particularly emotional moments: for example, when Lady Candy keeps playing a video of her daughter, whom she has not seen for months, on her cell phone and is crying.

The father of Lady Candy’s two daughters fled with the children to the Texas city across the border bridge, El Paso. She broke up with him because he followed her stories. Now the 23-year-old is trying to get a US visa to see her children. It costs 3,200 pesos, and appointments aren’t available for four or five months at the earliest, she’s told. That’s about 140 euros – half of what she earns monthly. In order to raise the money, Lady Candy agrees to a fight with special conditions.

“Luchadoras” is set against a backdrop of violence and fear. Ciudad Juárez, home to around 1.5 million people, was once considered the most dangerous city in the world and still has a very high murder rate. There were hundreds of murders of women there in the 1990s and 2000s. Missing posters with pictures of young women are still ubiquitous today. As in so many places in Mexico, impunity is widespread.

The film shows how the shooting of a scene is interrupted because suspected gangsters drive up and observe what’s going on from a distance. That wasn’t even the hottest experience they had in Ciudad Juárez, says co-director Jasim.

In one scene, Mini Sirenita asks an acquaintance to drive her from home to a fight. He resists, because “killing and burying” is going on in their neighborhood. The fighter wants to know why she wasn’t killed yet. “They overlooked you,” replies the acquaintance, and the small Mini Sirenita laughs.

Calvo emphasizes that it was important to the filmmakers not to portray the women in Ciudad Juárez as mere victims. The film should show “that they are also strong, that they are not just victims, that they fight back, that they want a better world and are fighting for it.”

There is a lot of fighting in “Luchadoras” – not least in the literal sense. Atmospherically dense, musically accompanied recordings from the ring convey just how physically brutal and demanding lucha libre is – regardless of how much of it is choreographed. Calvo describes the sport, popular in Mexico, as spontaneous dance. “It is important,” she says, and could also mean life in Ciudad Juárez: “to have the strength to get up again.” dpa

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