with violence, by Gabriella Coslovich - 3rd August
To the uninitiated, The Backyard
may seem remarkably like a film about testosterone-charged,
IQ-deficient, white-trash American teens with
nothing better to do with their leisure hours
than set themselves alight, smash fluoro tubes
over each other's heads, hurl themselves into
makeshift graves filled with mousetraps, pound
each other over the head with bats wrapped in
barbed wire, charge at each other with flaming
rubbish bin lids, and generally make out like
The Three Stooges on steroids.
for film maker Paul Hough, the antics of backyard
wrestlers are akin to a less cultivated form of
Shakespeare, a kind of beat-me-up Bard for the
masses, where the audience gets more pounds of
flesh than they bargained for. Wrestling, he says,
ripples with drama, spectacle, and larger-than-life
expecting a sermon on the perils of screen and
actual violence should avoid Hough's first feature
documentary, The Backyard, showing at the Melbourne
International Film Festival. A disturbing, often
repulsive insight into the world of backyard wrestling,
the documentary steers clear of passing judgment
on the young men and women who stage Fight Club-style
matches for friends and family in the hope of
one day graduating to the professional ring.
wanted to make a documentary that was as honest
as possible," says the London-born Hough,
speaking from his adopted home, the United States.
"The only conscious decision I made early
on was to try and show it from the backyard wrestlers'
point of view. It's a world that nobody knows."
discovered backyard wrestling while working for
a professional wrestling television program in
the US. He was given a homemade video showing
the usual routines of barbed-wire beatings and
wrangles in pits of broken glass.
the first time that I realised that there must
be all these kids out there who imitate their
wrestling heroes," says Hough.
found the Internet was choked with backyard wrestling
associations, e-mailed 100 of them, and so unearthed
his bizarre cast of small-town, pro-wrestling
wannabes - from the strangely endearing, gap-toothed
"Lizard", to the odiously homophobic
and racist Chaos.
travelled from the Nevada desert, to suburban
Arizona, upstate New York and back to England,
filming this motley crew, who provoke a myriad
of reactions, from disgust to sympathy.
parents' take on backyard wrestling is equally
fascinating to observe.
there's one thing that riles about The Backyard,
it's the seemingly gratuitous violence. The documentary
runs for almost 90 minutes, and repeatedly shows
thrashings, long after we've got the picture.
"I am not a fan of violence in real life,
but I am a fan of film violence," says Hough.
"That's one of the major reasons I wanted
to do this.
are two audiences for this film. One is the person
who likes documentaries and the other, maybe even
a bigger audience, is wrestling fans.
is so big all over the world that I felt it important
to leave a lot of the violence in, partly due
to that audience but partly because I enjoyed
watching it myself." Like his documentary,
Hough is brutally honest.
Backyard screens at the Greater Union, Russell
Street, tomorrow at 5.15pm, as part of the Melbourne
International Film Festival. The Age is a sponsor
of the festival.
International Film Festival
Van Dam official website
Foley official website
Hardy official website
Hough - 21st November 2003