ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: The Guerrilla Fighter (2016)

Directed by Gaspar Gonzalez

One of the best films yet to be produced by the ESPN 30 for 30 series is The Two Escobars, which focuses on the connection between sports star Andres Escobar and noted drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia. The struggle between a famous soccer player and the most powerful man in the country ended in tragedy, just as the relationship between Nicaraguan boxer Alexis Arguello and the communist Sandinistas who took power in his country, is ripe with drama and a thorough documentary investigation and exploration. However, The Guerrilla Fighter is not The Two Escobars, that much becomes clear rather quickly. I think this is a clear case of the format limiting the potential of the project, as there is just not enough time to do the story of Alexis Arguello justice in 20 minutes.

The film tries very hard to celebrate Arguello for his greatness in the boxing ring (often considered the greatest junior lightweight boxer ever) as well as his dedication to his country even after his boxing career ended. It showcases the strange turn of events when, after having fought against the Sanidisitas prior to them taking power, Arguello began to campaign with them in support for what was best for Nicaragua. Director Gaspar Gonzalez does not fail to create appreciation for the heart and intent of Arguello to support his country, but with so little time to explore the intricacies of the relationships he formed, the film really falters, failing to extrapolate on some otherwise very good ideas.

The 30 for 30 Shorts series is relatively hit or miss. Sometimes there are great films, sometimes terrible, and oftentimes in between. There are also occasionally films where I want to see more. I want to see more of The Guerrilla Fighter, but not because it is a great film, it’s actually quite average in terms of filmmaking, but rather because the story feels half-baked, like there is so much more depth to explore. I didn’t get to know Arguello enough as a fighter, I didn’t get to know Arguello enough as a politician and humanitarian. What drove him? Why was he so celebrated? What Gaspar Gonzalez delivers to us is a tease for something greater, which results in an underwhelming short film.

**1/2 – Average

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