A documentary that chronicles a local boxing gym in Haverhill, MA. For one year we see young kids learning what takes to establish themselves as amateur boxers with the owner Ray Hebert trying to instill the discipline they need.
Today’s film is the 2016 Sports documentary Touch Gloves written and directed by Felipe Jorge. It features the fighting stable of Ray Herbert’s Haverhill Downtown Boxing Gym with commentaries by Herbert himself. It was featured on the Tryon Film Festival of North Carolina.
Touch Gloves while featuring boxing as it’s main focus is more of a social commentary on Ray Herbert’s outstanding philosophy of taking under privileged inner city kids and giving them a productive outlet for their aggression that doesn’t involve crime. This amazing man has spent his entire retirement on building a gym for kids to come and find purpose in life and to get up off their butts and get into shape and stay out of trouble. While the goal is to help kids Ray of course allows people of all ages to use his gym and the documentary features a wide gamut of trainees from the youngest of eleven to the oldest (Featured but not the oldest member) of twenty seven. Shot over a period of a year and a half starting in 2015 and going to winter of 2016 Touch Gloves shows the training of each of these young men and women and their subsequent fights including at the Golden Gloves.
I have to say this film is not at all what I was expecting going in. When I heard it was going to be an in depth look at the world of amateur boxing I expected a lot of bragging, posturing and fairly poor technical skills showcased, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The two fundamental principles that Ray Herbert teaches his students are respect and how to not get hurt, while latter is something all trainers try to teach their students the former is something that has been woefully lacking in both the amateur and professional circuits of Boxing. Of course being human not all of the fighters featured in this film manage to live up to Ray’s principles at all time they are however always trying and show that hard work and dedication is all you really need to give your life a positive direction. This is a message that I think everyone should take to heart and really comes into focus in this very well written documentary.
The film shows a no nonsense view of how even the most professional and seasoned of these fighters can still get nervous and disregard everything the skilled trainers tried to instill upon them and makes no apologies for the wins or the losses that they meet in their bouts. It many sports films both fiction and nonfiction they try to show the viewer the athletes winning as a form of inspiration and to me that simply cheapens the entire experience, Touch Gloves however shows how the real world works while still managing to maintain a positive attitude that is nearly unheard of in our now pessimistic world. The gym itself is not one of those state of the art places filled with the latest fads in exercise and that seems to be more at home on the Enterprise instead of a real world gym, Instead Haverhill Downtown Gym looks like something out of the old Boxing films like Raging Bull or even the original Rocky movie due to the fact that the gym has been around for quite some time.
The production of Touch Gloves is quite impressive not only for documentaries in general but due to the fact that the entire thing was shot with one camera by the director himself. This is nearly unheard of and when it does happen the results are nearly always poor but in the case of this film Felipe Jorge pulls it off nearly without any flaws. The camera work of the film is very professionally handled with it’s steady effects and no shaky cam moments despite being a single person moving and operating the camera. The picture quality is very high with none of the overexposure and annoying bloom effects that nearly every no budget independent documentary has had that I have viewed. All of the footage of the film was shot by Felipe Jorge himself, showing his talent and ability to craft stories with pictures.
Justin’s Notes – There was an error here earlier. It’s been corrected.
The audio work of Touch Gloves is like many documentaries I have reviewed in that it is a mix of high points and low points. During the interview sections when the trainers or boxers are sitting down in a chair you can hear them quite well but that is really the only time. During most of the film the microphone is simply overwhelmed by the sounds of training going on in the background and the interviewees can barely be heard at times. This is quite unfortunate giving that what they are saying is generally inspirational or offers a deep and meaningful insight into the person talking. This is a very common issue with documentaries that I have seen over the years and one I think could really be solved by some simple sound manipulation during post production. The music however of the film is fitting and offers inspiration and hope as well as excitement during the boxing matches that is quite welcome and never drowns out the voices of the interviewees.
Documentaries are not for everyone and rating them is next to impossible on content, you are either interested in the subject matter or you are not unlike works of fiction. That said Touch Gloves is a very interesting look not only at the life of amateur boxing and the people who attempt it but at the work and life of Ray Herbert, a man I think any of us should endeavor to be more like in our outlook. If either of these topics interest you then at just over sixty minutes Touch Gloves brings you a fairly well put together work and is an essay on Felipe Jorge’s skill as a documentary filmmaker.
Justin’s Notes – Documentaries aren’t always our favorite things to review at Film Fervor. A lot of times, the documentaries we get a preachy, one-sided, and boring fluff pieces dealing with lame ideas and even lamer interviews. Touch Gloves, however, is a knock out documentary that provides inspiration and meaning, and a glimpse into the lives of amateur boxing. Love it.