Fighting for Wins Inside the Ring and Out in Born and Bred


By valuing the complexity of individuals’ stories over superficial competition drama, Born and Bred bucks the unwelcome nonfiction trend fostered by Spellbound. Focusing on three up-and-coming East L.A. pugilists—teenage twin brothers Javier and Oscar Molina, and 13-year-old adoptee Victor—Justin Frimmer’s documentary astutely casts tournament challenges as merely components of a person’s larger tale, presenting heartfelt portraits of its subjects that validate clichés about the “sweet science” as a microcosm of day-to-day efforts to survive, thrive, and understand one’s self. In-ring struggles to succeed are conflated with the working-class Latino immigrant experience, with the desire to achieve assimilation visualized by the Molina brothers’ Stars and Stripes-decorated headgear. Shot and edited with the same clean efficiency displayed by its fighters, the film eschews didacticism in favor of non-judgmental empathy for athletes and trainers attempting to transcend class barriers, capturing over the course of five years a stinging sense of lost childhoods spent in service of a brighter future.