Monday, April 14, 2014


Directed by: Gabriela Obregón
Synopsis: Recounting the history of the legendary Mexican wrestler, Santo and his son who took the name to carry on the legacy.

Much like in the U.S., wrestling is a big deal in Mexico. Before the Rock was going around and saving ailing action franchises, Mexican wrestling legend Santo was capturing the hearts and minds of people through his wrestling and his movie series and became a modern legend. THE MAN BEHIND THE LEGEND covers Santo's rise to fame as well as his eventual passing of the torch to his son, El Hijo Del Santo. The movie deals with a lot of broader issues like fame, greed, tradition, sacrifice, and the importance of icons in culture.

The story does follow the man who became the wrestler Santo, how he became such an icon, but then it focused more on the transition and the taking of the mantle by his son, El Hijo De Santo, and what he has done with the "brand" of Santo. Now, Santo is a cartoon, clothing, and apparel store. Given that the whole gimmick of the Santo character is anonymity, it's interesting to get small pieces of personal history as told by Hijo De Santo's brothers and sisters. There's a particularly odd scene when his relatives recount his first divorce, and it feels very awkward. This story is basically all told from the people that would talk about him the best such as friends, family and business associates. Without anyone saying a bad word about Santo, the most tends to feel repetitive, especially the last ten minutes of the movie. The section could have worked if there was more of a variety of subjects because how it stands, it made him out to be too much of a saint (pun intended).

This documentary is very strange in that it's not easy to define who the intended audience is. It's too broad for die-hard Santo fans to get much out of it beyond a few personal anecdotes, and but it also requires a bit of knowledge of Mexican wrestling culture and history in order to appreciate many parts of it, so it's not really as novice friendly as one might want. The biggest reason why I felt even somewhat familiar with the subject matter was because I researched Santo after watching a few of his movies during Halloween.

What makes the movie special is passion. You can tell that a lot of heart went into making the movie in trying to convey the importance of what a potentially silly wrestling icon means to generations of Mexicans. To tell this, the director doesn't stray too far off the usual documentary arsenal of talking head interviews, stock footage, and archival photos. It's not breaking new ground, but it doesn't need it.

While the review might feel more on the negative side, it should be noted that if you fall within the demographic of people that already has some knowledge on the subject, it is enjoyable and a very heartfelt tribute to someone that has meant a lot to people. It's very reminiscent of punk music in that regard; the technical skills might not be there, but the passion makes up for the fact there's only three chords in the whole song.

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