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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Sports > Boxing > Split Decision

Split Decision (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Main Program: B



When is criminal behavior so bad that the person who commits it has been punished enough?  These days, the extremists on both sides of the political spectrum what to execute someone for the most minor thing, as if they were above others.  In real life, everyone makes mistakes, which is why innocent-until-proven-guilty and punishment(s) fitting the crime are still the best pillars that justice can rest upon.  Marcy Garriott’s new documentary Split Decision (2001, which she also produced, edited and shot some of) takes on the case of Gabriele Jesus Chavez, who had committed a crime as a youth, but had found his calling in the sport of Boxing.


Furthermore, it turned out that he was good at it, gaining the name ‘El Matador” and being nearly undefeated.  All at once, the film looks at the struggles of trying to climb out of poverty, deal with racism, deal with citizenship issues and the politics that accompany them, prove that a criminal act can be shown as a one-time thing, show that a lack of role models lead to crime in the first place, and show a calling can change any life for the better.  As we hear Chavez’s words about his life, you can see he is not a bad guy to begin with and has a story that reflects millions of young men and women in this country.


This is very engaging viewing.  It is a new look at going after the American Dream with some different twists and turns than we usually see.  That he goes on to more wins and commercial success is a plus, but just making it is the greatest win he will ever have.  This is the kind of thing we used to root for all the time in the United States and things will never get back to normal until we want this again.  In this respect, Split Decision is a winner and with the second President Bush’s sudden (and contradictory to anti-terrorist immigration policy in general) granting of amnesty to Mexicans (not on this DVD, as it is so very recent and sudden reversal of policy), it figures more and more prominently as a must-see.


The full screen image is shot entirely on clean, color videotape.  Though it is analog with soft detail, color is a bit better than usual.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has surprisingly healthy Pro Logic surrounds.  The extras include trailers to other first Run DVDs, the update Epilogue: Return of the Matador (about ten minutes) showing Chavez’s further climb in his field, and an abbreviated version (4:32) interview with Garriott and local Austin, Texas journalist Jan Reid with her triumph.  There is also a Spanish option you can select before you begin.  See it all before everyone else goes for it, leaving you scrambling to catch up.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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