Ameesha Joshi and Anna Sarkissian presented a documentary almost a decade in the making to a crowd at the Isabel Bader Centre on Monday and Tuesday.
With This Ring follows three female boxers, Sarita Devi, MC Mary Kom and Chhoto Loura, as they compete for the women’s Indian national boxing team. The documentary revolves around their decision to forgo traditional female roles within Indian society in order to become world champion boxers.
The filmmaking process itself took around six years to complete, with Joshi and Sarkissian traveling back and forth between India and Canada.
Ranging from gruelling training sessions to an anticipated world championship, their time in India captured many of the crucial moments of the boxers’ careers.
At first, the coaches were hesitant about the filmmakers’ cameras because they worried the documentary crew would distract the athletes.
According to Joshi, the film took longer than expected to make in part because the language barriers “made it harder to build a relationship and to gain their trust.”
However, this hesitation disappeared within two years as the creators’ relationship with the female boxers and the team developed.
Six years later, they had what they needed — nearly 200 hours of footage to work with.
With limited resources and a tight budget, the filmmakers took a DIY approach to the production process.
“There were some things we needed outside help with because they required specific expertise, [especially with] translation, sound design, music, editing,” Sarkissian told The Journal over e-mail.
It took them two years to get Jackie Dzuba, a highly sought-after editor, to help out with these barriers. Luckily, she along with several others, was willing to work for nearly nothing.
The resulting documentary captures the evolution in recognition of not only Mary Kom, a five-time world champion, but also the recognition of women’s boxing in India. By watching, audiences see the challenge of what it takes to become a national and world champion. This includes the rigorous typical training schedule of three times a day, six times a week for 10 months out of the year.
Especially in India, this life at a boxing training camp is severe. Joshi and Sarkissian recalled working in conditions of 45 degrees Celsius with no air conditioning and random downpours at any moment’s notice.
These training sessions that the film touches on, follow Devi, Mary Kom and Loura’s ability to manage a trying preparation process along with their personal lives outside of the ring. On top of this, the female boxers faced additional pressures from their families and society as they challenged the gendered assumptions of the sport.
The duality of living a life and being committed to becoming a national and world champion isn’t only strenuous on the body, but it’s also mentally challenging, a fact the film makes clear. With This Ring captures the raw and undeniably powerful moments in the lives of these female athletes.
Following the completion of this film, Joshi and Sarkissian have taken to university campuses and film festivals to present their documentary.
Sarkissian said she hopes the audience can “connect with the characters and can to their stories.”
Joshi agreed, stating the film “inspires anyone who wants to pursue their dreams to persevere against all odds.”
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