Colorful characters fight their way into your consciousness
DAWG FIGHT: a documentary film by Billy Corben
By Cameron Lesesne
The crowd’s excitement builds. The combatants are focused in the claustrophobic make shift ring. The crunching sound of punches landing crashes. This is all going down in a quaint backyard in the neighborhood of West Perrine in South Miami, where the world of back yard brawling comes to life. This contest is produced through the efforts of a man named Dhafir Harris, AKA Dada5000 and his team (Team 5000). Dada was formally a part of the team that promoted fighter, Kimbo Slice, who was also a legendary back yard fighter until he struck it big in the MMA. They parted ways and Dada5000 began his own brand of Backyard Brawls that is the central theme of the film. “Dawg Fight” was one of the films that was the buzz of the recent Miami International Film Festival, presented by Miami Dade College.
Dada5000 essentially promoted, managed, and refereed these backyard brawl events, bringing together
local fighters who were willing to formally fight one on one for a prize cache in the makeshift ring. The event became epic, attracting local and national celebritie,s and elevating Dada into a celebrity of sorts himself. Dada5000 is a charismatic and influential person in his community with the energy and hustle necessary to pull off the brutal, but electrifying event. His efforts and challenges make for an interesting concoction of personality and talents inside and outside the ring. Accomplished director Billy Corben takes his cameras to fighters themselves in a revealing expose’ that provides an inside look at the lives of the fighters. What emerges is a story that is deeper than the bloody brawls. These men, some of whom are charming, comical and charismatic in their own right, are fighting in the ring to make an honest buck, and as Dada5000 says, in some cases so that they won’t have to do something drastic (and illegal) outside of it. This harsh reality has provided a way out for some of the fighters such as “LEVEL” and Mike Trujillo who moved up out of the BYB scene into the MMA.
Dada5000 himself describes Backyard brawls as “the grey area between boxing and mixed martial arts”. Throughout the course of the film, Dada mentors and trains some of the fighters in preparation of the battles they will face. He also faces his own battles; the police, boxing watchdogs and his own entry into the ring. Filmmaker Billy Corben does a great job conveying the fighters and the community of commentators (in the form of four hilarious local women who could be sweet grandmothers on one hand, and astute fight commentators on the other hand). These people serve as perfect narrators to build tension before, during and after the fights. They are enjoyable to watch and insightfully honest, which make their scene stealing antics all the more fun.
Overall “Dawg Fight” is an excellent film. Its raw appeal is its ability to peer into the world of Backyard Brawls and expose the real people behind it. It takes you into the ring, and dares you to root for the underdog. It also successfully takes you behind the scenes as team 5000 plans and executes the events. “Dawg Fight” doesn’t glorify what’s going on in the BYB world, but rather shows it for what it is. A place where real battles go down and more than a few bucks and a moment of glory and potential ring stardom are on the line for the winner. For the loser, it highlights the age old theme that life is not about being knocked down or knocked out, but about the will to get back up and fight another day.