WRESTLE takes us inside the lives of four members of the high school wrestling team at Huntsville’s J.O. Johnson High School, a longstanding entry on Alabama’s list of failing schools. Teammates Jailen, Jamario, Teague, and Jaquan face challenges far beyond a shot at the state championship: splintered families, drug use, teenage pregnancy, mental health struggles, and run-ins with the law threaten to derail their athletic success and lock doors that might open their future. Their tough-love coach Chris Scribner isn’t off the hook, either; he must come to terms with his own past while unwittingly wading into the complexities of race, class and privilege. Director Suzannah Herbert and co-director Lauren Belfer captured over 650 hours of footage during the team’s final season to create this closely observed, deeply affecting depiction of growing up disadvantaged in America. Wrestle premieres on Independent Lens Monday, May 20, 10:00-11:30 PM ET (check local listings) on PBS and will also be available simultaneously for online streaming at pbs.org.
About the Filmmakers:
Suzannah Herbert (Director/Writer/Producer), originally from Memphis, Tennessee, is a documentary filmmaker. Her NYU Tisch senior thesis, Home Game, premiered at DOC NYC. Herbert was the associate producer on Free Angela & All Political Prisoners, directed by Shola Lynch, and has since worked as an assistant editor on Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next and Fahrenheit 11/9, and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming documentary, Rolling Thunder Revue, about Bob Dylan’s pivotal 1975 tour. Herbert made her feature directorial debut with Wrestle, which won 11 awards on the 2018 festival circuit, and was distributed theatrically by Oscilloscope in 2019.
Lauren Belfer (Co-Director/Writer/Lead Producer) is a producer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn. Most recently she was the line and field producer on Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (Netflix 2019), and she has frequently collaborated with Michael Moore, having worked on Fahrenheit 11/9, Trumpland, and the Oscar-shortlisted Where to Invade Next. Belfer produced the narrative feature After Louie (BFI 2017), starring Alan Cumming, and the documentary Hotline (Hot Docs 2014). Belfer’s directorial debut, Wrestle, garnered 11 awards on the festival circuit, including two audience awards and the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film.
“Profiling four members of an underdog high-school wrestling team in Huntsville, Alabama, “Wrestle” constructs an empathetic portrait of a mat that’s anything but level.” – Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
“Wrestle will completely suck you in from beginning to end. It’s is a heartbreaking, yet honest look at the more poverty-torn cities in our country.” – Dante Jones, Film Threat
“Sometimes hopeful, other times heartbreaking, Wrestle is an honest portrait of disadvantaged American youth that will inspire empathy and leave viewers with lots to ponder.” Kieran Fisher, Nonfics
“One reason “Wrestle” is so effective is that director Herbert and cinematographer Sinisa Kukic made the decision to move to Huntsville for the duration of the shoot.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times