Thursday, 12 July 2007

GAEA Girls - Film Review

When The Wrestling Channel began broadcasting last year, one of the promotions that initially caught my eye was GAEA Japan, with it's strong style of women's wrestling. So it was with a great deal of interest that I finally managed to get a hold of the GAEA Girls documentary, funded by the BBC and directed by Kim Longinotto & Jano Williams.
The film takes us behind the GAEA training school, headed up by tough Japanese veteran Chigusa Nagayo. Nagayo is something of a legend in Japanese wrestling circles, and is one of the founders of the promotion.

The main focus of the film is a young trainee, Takeuchi, as she attempts to impress the powers-that-be, in the hope that she makes the grade and becomes a professional wrestler. When the film begins, Takeuchi has already been training for a year, but is yet to make her debut, and impressing her trainers, and in particular Nagayo, is difficult for her. It's literally a tale of blood, sweat, and tears for Takeuchi as she takes mental and physical batterings as she attempts to prove herself.

The segments where Takeuchi goes through her tests, which include several practice matches, are both compelling and difficult to watch at times, especially when she goes up against Nagayo, giving up a great deal of height as she spars with her mentor.

We also see a woman who has earned a great reputation for herself, Meiko Satomura. Satomura is one of GAEA's great success stories, and in the film helps train Takeuchi, but at times she is left wondering just where her own career is headed.

We also get to see the other side of things. While Satomura wonders where her career is headed, and Takeuchi tries to get her career started, others don't even make it that far. One girl quits the school after seeing Takeuchi taking a beating in the ring, and another, Wakabayashi, attempting to make the grade for a second time, quits before she even gets into the ring. We also see a new recruit, a young girl called Sato, arrive at the school. Sato is a young slip of a thing who looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, so you are left to wonder if she has what it takes to make it as a wrestler.

After Takeuchi makes her debut, in a losing effort to Satomura, Nagayo reveals just what drives her on. Although she is a good wrestler, and a good teacher, she knows that she must be hard at times, otherwise her students will fail before they've even started. Her aim is to make her students even better than she is, so that one day they can reach heights that she never reached.

GAEA Girls makes for compelling viewing. It takes you behind the scenes of the Japanese women's wrestling scene, and it shows everything. It's a fine example of just how hard it can be to become a professional wrestler, of the sacrifices you must make. This is certainly worth watching, and recommended viewing for any aspiring wrestler, be they male or female.