Across the world, the thought of Mexican lucha libre inevitably conjures up images of perspiring men with broad shoulders, round bellies, and colorful masks. But anyone who’s done a Friday night stint at Mexico City’s iconic Arena Mexico – or at least seen a live broadcast – knows that there’s much more to the spectacular sport than the stereotypes let on. Some luchadores choose to forgo the mask altogether, for example, while others go the extra mile to get those ab workouts in, and others still aren’t men at all. In fact, as the short documentary Luchadora informs us in its opening minutes, of the nearly 200 registered professional wrestlers in Mexico, 18 are women.
Directed by River Finlay, Luchadora is an empathetic profile of Mexican women’s tag team champion Luna Mágica, and her struggle to balance motherhood with an unusually demanding career in an unapologetically machista society. Drawn to lucha libre at a young age, Luna found a positive escape from the destructive dynamics of her impoverished small town, and defied her own mother’s wishes in pursuit of her dream. Years later, after suffering through the derision and exclusion of her male colleagues, Luna made her name on the biggest stage Mexico had to offer. But, since a judge determined her profession made her incapable of raising her own son, her triumph has been bittersweet.
Shot in a straightforward style that mixes interviews, observational footage, and archival material from the lucha libre broadcasts, Luchadora goes beyond a generic narrative of a woman making her way in a man’s world, and delves into Luna Mágica’s personal and professional struggles with a notable level sensitivity and respect. In the end we see that Luna’s struggle may never have a neat, happy ending, but we are left in awe of her resilience and strength in the face of daily hardship.
[h/t: Short of the Week]