People are fighting everyday. They are fighting to keep their house, fighting to stay alive and fighting to take care of their families. And they are willing to do whatever it may take to do that.
The film, “Beauty of the Fight,” directed by John Urbano looks genuinely into two Panama barrios, Barraza and El Chorrillo, which were invaded by the United States in 1989 to capture General Manuel Noriega and left the towns in shambles. Now known as “red zones,” Urbano risked entering the gang-infested and drug trafficking area where bullets are being constantly to show the real beauty the towns possess.
Barraza and El Chorrillo are both filled with surface problems, yet Urbano successfully showed the deeper side to the criminals, to the streets, to the houses, and the people. He used many close ups of the people he interviewed to reveal the depth in each person’s eyes.
Urbano went into the homes of many people to show their living conditions for personal interviews. One person created his home on the beach with washed up items from the shore and other random materials he could find. Urbano pointed out in the film that this older man was not a pack rat, but an artist. His statement was representative to the outlook Urbano had on the towns throughout the entire film.
The movie was visually enjoyable to watch because of the saturation and vibrancy of the colors on and within the buildings. They were extremely old and looked like they could crumble at any moment, yet Urbano filmed them and showed the beauty behind each building or person.
Urbana’s unique eyes allow him to show the audience more than what most people would see if they were able to walk to streets of Barraza and El Chorrillo. Most would probably feel frightened and disgust, but not Urbano. He saw the hearts of people, individual talents, and extraordinary lives.
After the documentary was shown, Urbano answered questions. He was asked if he saw commonality between the people of this culture. He said that there is a common thread of smiles. Although the people may not have a smile on their face, every moment, there was something that would eventually make them smile. It may be a child who is playing in the streets, or a joke that makes a gang-banger crack a smile.
I enjoyed experiencing the culture of the Panama barrios through the film but was looking for the film to give more information on how to help the situation, or next step options that as an audience member, I could take.
The documentary is meant to be a presentation of the situation in Panama and to open the eyes of audiences not just about what is going on in Barraza and El Chorrillo, but to also show the deepness behind these people and these falling apart towns. After seeing it though, I was felt frustrated at mistreatment of the people and wanted to know how I could make a difference there.
The film on a whole was beautifully shot and had interesting interviewees that gave meaningful and fascinating stories of their lives and of the invasion of 1989.
Urbano created a book of photography also called “Beauty of the Fight” that has many images from his visits. For more information about the film and John Urbano, go to www.beautyofthefight.com.