Perched in the hills and stricken by poverty and the drug trade, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro have featured in any number of slick action films and somber sociological dramas. But in Ben Holman and Neirin Jones’ documentary short, The Good Fight, the camera’s constant ascent up streets and stairs alongside its residents suggests Sisyphean struggle for some, perseverance for others.

Their subject is Alan Duarte, whose boxing training with a non-governmental organization led him to form Embracing Champions — his own source of positivity through pugilism — in his favela, Complexo do Alemao. Under the withering glares drug dealers toting assault weapons, it’s an act of bravery for Alan to even walk with cameramen to his apartment — let alone set up rings in which he and the youth of his neighborhood can spar.

The cops are there to offer symbolic protection, but when volleys of gunfire ring out, the camp scatters for the night — a mad scramble of fear shown in harrowing first-person POV.

“I’m scared that one day a bullet will hit me and I will die,” says a young participant nicknamed “Rocky Jr.” “Because stray bullets have no direction.” The closing credits similarly unfurl over a cacophony of gunfire and squealing tires.

We learn about a tragic incident in Alan’s past that pushed him to begin Embracing Champions, and it’s reenacted in a way that seems a tad exploitative until you realize it represents a reality, and rapidity, from which Alan learned he needed to slow down.

The Good Fight is the sort of strong tale that would benefit from expansion, and one gets the sense this will someday wind up a Blu-ray extra for a longer-form film.

(17 minutes, Brazil; Documentary; in Portuguese with subtitles)

The Good Fight is a Documentary Short finalist at the 2017 Heartland Film Festival and will be part of a short-film program presented at:

  • 3:15 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
  • 7:45 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
  • 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 21 at AMC Castleton Square 14

Tickets are available at, by calling 1-866-HFF-1010 or at the box office at the time of the screening. 

Writer / director / producer Ben Holman will be in attendance at the festival.