Backyard, The (USA; 80 min.)

directed by: Paul Hough
The Backyard

Rick says: "While this fascinating documentary is no longer playing at the Coolidge, it is available on DVD. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes documentaries and has an interest in youth subcultures or sociology. But not for those with a weak stomach.

"In John Hough's THE BACKYARD we explore the world of mostly teenagers who mimic their professional wrestling heroes, creating a semi-scripted theater of violence and absurdity using such props as barbed wire, thumb tacks, picture frames, light bulbs and fire. Initially it's easy to dismiss this activity as just plain foolish at best, extremely dangerous at worst. Or to smugly assert that they are just setting themselves up for natural selection to clean out the particular maladaptive mutation of our gene pool that would prompt someone to partake in such nonsense. However, any preconceptions we carry into the film are abated as we see that like just about everything else in life, there are layers of complexity and variation to these kids and in their motivations for doing what they do. They're not all the same. Some wrestling groups are highly organized, others not. Some kids are high school dropouts, others college-bound. Some participate just for fun, others dream of careers with the WWF. Some parents abhor their kids' involvement, others support and even assist them. Some take safety precautions, others attempt to push the safety envelope as far as possible. The material here is not only curious and sometimes funny, but deliciously ripe for social scientific analysis. Thoughts about issues such as relationship to pain, trust, camaraderie, outsider status, and the not so latent sado-masochism of it all were swimming about my head after the viewing.

"All but one of the groups shown are from the United States, but it was the group of English boys that interested me the most. Self-proclaiming a greater emphasis on technique and creating original characters, these kids (in their early to mid teens) are extremely well spoken, light hearted and seemingly sensible about the whole thing. Therefore, it was all the more disturbing when one boy committed the 'routine' act of slicing his forehead with a razor blade, resulting in the desired effect of a face full of blood. Afterward, his friends helped him wipe his face with a towel, only to have the blood continue to flow. The clearly good-natured and cute boy smiled and put on a face on not being concerned, despite likely being in shock due to blood loss. The blood flow would not stop. An ambulance was summonsed and he ended up being okay, but I still get a sinking feeling in my stomach thinking about it. Not an easy film to watch, but a good 3.5 cats."

Tara says: "Someone posted about THE BACKYARD a while back and I meant to chime in at that time. THE BACKYARD played our film festival in 2002 and was an audience favorite -- no one had ever really seen antyhing like that before and now I have noticed that you can buy a PPV competitive event on cable for backayrd wrestling - it appears to ahve gone mainstream.

"Anyway, I loved that doc - it was a bit disturbing at times - some kids go to great lengths for dramatic flair! But the person who posted about it on this list shared my fascination with the British kids. They played hard, kept stiff upper lips, and drank tea while they played back their videos for critiquing. Brutal at times, but also stranely poignant in its following of people who really wanted to go pro."