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Ballerina I’m Not Review

Ballerina I’m Not is a 2017 documentary about an underground, underdog story of the prolific journey that women take to follow their dreams and find their way in a male dominated fight industry.

When you think of pro wrestling, right away the big names pop up, with huge arena bouts and spectacular effects featuring all kinds of stagey choreography between bombastic and outrageous over-the-top characters. And you are definitely thinking of men. And while there is a growing female presence in the professional ring, it’s not nearly that well known or considered as much as the guys. With Francesca Zappitelli‘s latest Ballerina I’m Not, we go behind the inspirations of women who have made wrestling not just their dreams but a passion that has driven them their whole lives, and no matter the hurdles and barriers, literally fight to be part of the entertainment.

Centering mostly on Zappitelli herself, who has had a long colorful career in a number of entertainment forays, documents her journey into the profession while pointing the camera at other women who have made names for themselves, including Julie Ginther, Stacey Keibler and Christie Ricci among others. We follow along through various wrestling schools and learn, as we’ve seen in many wrestling documentaries, that while the fighting is choreographed the hits and falls are real. But this is less a story about the battles in the ring than what it takes to get there. This is not a look at the big time, as rarely is the the mega-goliath WWE ever mentioned, but more the scrappy bouts in the peripheral where these women took to refining their craft, facing exploitation while trying to establish legitimacy.

Years in the making, the film is nonetheless not as slick as many of its counterparts, though is clearly a passion project of Zappitelli, who narrates and conducts the interviews, even on herself. The footage is often raw and from amature cameras and as such has a distinct home video feel. This isn’t a talky documentary though as there is constant footage of women in the ring, and for fans of the fighting, has plenty to fuel interest, giving some background to the wrestlers and MMA fighters. It dips into melodrama a few times, highlighting personality conflicts, and while it offers a peek behind it all, lacks the professional insight I think many will be hoping for, especially in the second half where it simply films a few MMA fights almost in their entirety with no context, taking away from the more impactful look at the women themselves.

This, as it should be, is all about the fight for a dream as it often reminds us, and Zappitelli completely ignores the other entertainment path she took for many years, that of hardcore pornography, which could be an interesting behind-the-scenes story all itself. As is, the film certainly has some compelling moments and rises whenever its puts its focus on Ricci, who is a dynamic character with a long history in the sport. Zappitelli wants to tell a larger story and indeed we do get a better picture of what it takes for women who want to join, though it never quite hits with any genuine emotion and rarely offers inspiration. It’s more of a home video look at the entertainment and if you’re a fan of female wrestlers, might have just enough to make it worth a look.

Ballerina I’m Not Review

Movie description: Ballerina I'm Not is a 2017 documentary about an underground, underdog story of the prolific journey that women take to follow their dreams and find their way in a male dominated fight industry.

Director(s): Francesca Zappitelli

Actor(s): Francesca Zappitelli, Julie Ginther, Stacey Keibler, Christi Ricci

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