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."