Damian Rojo was just looking to rent out part of his warehouse space in Little Haiti; he didn't expect the business transaction to lend fodder to his filmmaking passion. "My nephew introduced me to his neighbor who is a wrestler," says Rojo. "The wrestlers were looking for a new place to train, so I said they could use the space." Before long, the New Age of Wrestling (a nonprofit organization that runs a professional wrestling school and presents exhibitions to raise money for local charities) had set up its regulation-size ring and started practicing in the space. "When you walk in, it feels like you're in a Francis Bacon painting," says Rojo of his warehouse.
Rojo met the wrestlers this past January and started filming them. He then realized that he was in the process of creating a great documentary. "These are not a bunch of goofballs," says Rojo. "One speaks fluent Japanese, another is a police officer. They are so passionate and their stories are so compelling that I couldn't just make a film of them slamming each other around," so the documentary includes interviews with the athletes in addition to clips of their practice sessions and matches.
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The N.A.W. school teaches aspiring professional wrestlers the proper techniques of the sport: falls, flips, holds, throws, and takedowns, in addition to teaching the psychology of fighting. "We teach confidence, charisma, and character development," says wrestler and N.A.W. president Danny Denis. You can catch these characters live and on film at Damian Rojo's free exhibition "Bag of Teeth" Saturday, April 16.