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article imageReview: ‘Last Woman Standing’ is full of heart Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 26, 2013 in Entertainment
‘Last Woman Standing’ is about two female boxers mentally and physically preparing for some of the most difficult fights of their careers leading up to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
To dedicate every waking moment to a single pursuit takes more than just run of the mill commitment. For these athletes, winning isn't luck - it's hard work. In Last Woman Standing, two of Canada's highest ranking female boxers are forced to put their friendship aside and compete for the same spot on the first Canadian Olympic women's boxing team.
Mary Spencer was a high school basketball player who would get into fights regularly, sometimes with boys. When her current coach, Charlie, heard about Spencer, he thought it would be a good idea to channel her aggression and transformed her into a boxer. On the other hand, Ariane Fortin has had her eye on the prize for some time, even switching trainers to broaden her skills. For seven years they were teammates on the Canadian national team, but the 2012 Olympics included only three weight categories, pushing both Spencer and Fortin into the same weight class. Both women were funded by Canada's athletic program, Own the Podium, but only one would qualify.
Documentaries about historical events aren't usually cliffhangers; the outcomes are already known. These films chronicle the personal journeys to the public occasion. In this case, Canada's result at the 2012 London Games was seen around the world. But what transpired between Spencer and Fortin prior to that event?
Filmmakers Lorraine Price and Juliet Lammers begin by establishing their main characters. Audiences are introduced to the boxers, their trainers and families. They're shown working equally hard at the gym, preparing for numerous world championship wins. They're both likeable, but fiercely competitive. Then the International Olympic Committee announced the addition of their sport and they are not seen on screen together again until they meet in the ring.
The movie documents several significant matches, capturing a condensed version of each bout and the ringside advice of the coaches. However, for those unfamiliar with boxing or the scoring system, it may have also been useful to record some live commentary to give the final results some context.
Less about the competition between the two women, it’s about their personal struggles with the possibility of jeopardizing their friendship and not achieving their goal. However, even after the spot is decided, disappointment and joy give way to different paths of determination – one to win a gold medal, the other to find a way to keep her Olympic dream alive.
Last Woman Standing is screening during Hot Docs, the largest documentary film festival in North America, which runs April 25 to May 5 in Toronto.
More about Last Woman Standing, Hot docs, Documentary, Mary Spencer, Ariane Fortin
 
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