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[Sundance ’22] ‘La Guerra Civil’ review: Not Mexican enough

Ultimate Glory.

La Guerra Civil’s opening moments foreshadows the major theme of the documentary. Julio Cesar Chavez is shown training for his upcoming fight with Oscar De La Hoya. His adoring fans watch on. Meanwhile, De La Hoya prepares in a secluded gym with no one but his trainers. Director Eva Longoria Baston revisits a seminal sports moment of the 1990s. When Chavez met De La Hoya, it was seen by some as a passing of the torch. Others saw it as the fight that would further add to the legacy of one of boxing’s greatest champions. But for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, the fight meant much more. 

La Guerra Civil spends a lot of time discussing the importance of boxing in Mexican culture. As expected, it is done early in the film. Longoria does not leave it at that, however. Throughout its Sundance Film Festival world premiere, archival footage and modern day interviews show how much the sport means. It is not about hammering in the point. It just is a normal part of the culture.

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This constantly underscores the big fight is more important than seeing who the better athlete is. It is also interesting to hear what the two fighters have to say. Chavez cares greatly for his fans even if he does not understand why they adore him so much. For his part, De La Hoya was also confused by the anger towards him. The difference is where Chavez was almost amused by the reactions, De La Hoya was angry.

From the relatability of the older boxer to the fact that the Golden Boy was “not Mexican enough”, La Guerra Civil offers a number of theories as to why fans tended to prefer Chavez. The interviews add insight as they do more than just explain the fight. Each person also talks about how they felt during the time. It makes the film more than just another sports documentary.

La Guerra Civil rushes to finish after covering the first fight between Chavez and De La Hoya. The rematch is glossed over and there are some quick closing comments. It is does not lessen the effect of the rest of earlier portions, but the abrupt ending is disappointing. The final moments do not deliver the knockout blow the rest of the documentary promises.

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