Fake It So Real in the Wall Street Journal

By STEVE DOLLAR

‘Fake It So Real’

reRun Gastropub Theater
147 Front St., Brooklyn, (718) 766-9110
Friday-Jan. 19

Robert Greene chalks up a lot to the wisdom of uncertainty. The filmmaker, who is based in Beacon, N.Y., is creating his own niche with intensely personal documentaries shot so fearlessly on the fly—within specifically limited, and likely sleepless, time frames—that they seem like minor miracles. Then again, he seems to have an innate sense for character-driven narrative and the apparent deep trust of his subjects.

MOVIE
Factory 25Hojo Devlin gets the drop on Zane in Robert Greene’s documentary ‘Fake It So Real.’

As with “Kati with an i,” his 2010 Gotham Award-nominated film that followed his half-sister on her high-school graduation weekend, his new film is set in the deep South and features a relative as one of its main subjects. He goes by the name Chris Solar, and like his cohorts in the film, he’s an aspiring professional wrestler. The consequences of a birth defect robbed him of a belly button, which leaves him even more reason to kick butt.

Superstars in their own area code, the members of the Millennium Wrestling Federation of Lincolnton, N.C., may play cartoonish heroes and villains inside the ring, but their real-life ambitions are no joke. “Fake It So Real” captures a week in the life of this rough-and-tumble fraternity of small-town head crushers, allowing generous elbow room for sometimes ridiculous, sometimes heart-tugging swerves of eccentricity as individual struggles are subsumed by the communal glory of the big match. Mr. Greene, himself a wrestling enthusiast, establishes a jocular yet intimate rapport that reveals the passion and contradictions binding this disparate group of working-class men together.

Everyone has his reasons for chasing his peculiarly punishing dream, whether it’s the crew’s naive rookie, Gabriel (“GAYbriel”) Croft, who copes with some deeply seated emotional problems; or the chubby J-Prep, whose outsized posterior becomes part of his schtick when he enters the ring to the thump of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Shot with the nimble-jointed cinematographer Sean Price Williams, the film resonates with the jarring physicality of face chops and body slams. It even inspired a number of Mr. Greene’s indie-film peers to channel their inner Hulk Hogan and make their own pro-wrestling-style boasts on a series of promotional clips (watch them at vimeo.com/album/1793798). Along with Mr. Greene, some of them will be on hand for the film’s premiere Friday, and mayhem could well ensue.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value, which is nearly boundless, the deeper appeal of “Fake It” lies in getting these raucous big lugs to expose their vulnerabilities (amid issues of class, race, culture and masculine identity) without ever becoming canned anthropology or a joke at anyone’s expense. Sure, these guys live for the moment when they get to stomp someone’s head, but they wear their hearts on their sleeve.

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