I am a reader, not a viewer. I have little use for television, and, with rare exceptions, movies. (I started to write "cinema," but that seems a little precious given the fare coming out of Hollywood nowadays.) But, every now and again, I run across something that moves me.
I'm not holding up "Why We Fight" as high art, but I've found it awfully good compared to most documentaries, or the vulgar offshoot we call reality tv.
We get the story from the point of view of Zac, a promising young boxer who has derailed his career with an addiction to prescription pain killers. He gets a chance to get clean and to travel the world and meet different kinds of fighters. In the first episode, he goes to Mexico to fight an "opponent" to prove he deserves this opportunity. His later meeting with his desperate middle-aged opponent is about as powerful a scene as I can recall.
The second episode features two young women preparing for an MMA bout. Zac is clearly developing feelings for one of the gals, but the scenes are handled in such a way that the average man won't roll his eyes and switch to football highlights. (Trust me; this emotionally stunted Sasquatch never felt tempted to skip ahead to the fight.)
Now, about the the fighting. It's brutal. John McCain's description "human cockfighting" isn't without basis. Yet people have their reasons, and there's no disputing their courage and athletic ability. As an old man-in-progress who has recently and improbably (and perhaps stupidly) taken up an especially physical and brutal style of martial arts, I can't help but admire the ability of world-class MMA fighters and boxers. If some people find the chance of brain damage and other injury terrifying, others find the prospect of living too long and sitting in front of the television, snoring, mouth wide open, more so. There's more to life that safety. Still, I wouldn't encourage my grandchildren to go into full-contact martial arts competition. I would encourage them to train in martial arts, however.
So, here's the trailer. You can watch the first two episodes at go90.com. New episodes come out on Wednesdays. (Warning: lots of F-bombs, so use ear phones when younguns are around.