Movie Review: Beyond the Mat

By William Kustiono

This year’s movie, “Beyond the Mat”, should not be confused with the movie “Beyond the Mat” that was released in 2000, written and directed by Barry Blaustein. The year 2000 movie takes the viewers behind the scenes of the WWF’s professional wrestlers (World Wrestling Federation now changed to WWE – World Wrestling Entertainment). 2013’s “Beyond the Mat” is directed by Van H. Pham. Director Pham is a graduate from the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University with a BA in TV Broadcast Production and received his MFA in Film and Television from Chapman University, with emphasis in Film Directing. His major work is “A Different Corner”.

Released in 2013, “Beyond the Mat” is the story of Aaron Miller (John Wynn), a high school wrestling star and Vietnamese adoptee in America. He has overcome racism and isolation in his school and as a result, he is one of the very few Asian-American students left in his school. His future looks bright, the opportunity to enter college on a full-ride sports scholarship. Aaron’s best friend since childhood is Bo (Mark HAPKA), a Caucasian student who is at the top of his weight class. Aaron and Bo hope to continue their friendship and accomplish careers as they enter college and beyond. However, Bo’s loss to cross-town rival Dominic Bradshaw in their junior year championship drives a rift in their relationship. Bo’s obsession with getting a rematch against his rival causes him to push Aaron from his spot on the varsity wrestling team, potentially harming Aaron’s scholarship chances. Amidst all this, the arrival of Linh Tran (Teresa Michelle Lee), a Vietnamese American student, compels Aaron to confront his Vietnamese heritage, which he has never fully explored. Through these unexpected hardships, Aaron must face his personal struggles and embrace his passion for the wrestling mat.

This film explores the issues of Asian-American cultural heritage. A story of self-discovery and personal growth that explores the identity crisis that comes with the high school years. Aaron is an immensely likeable protagonist who struggles with peer pressure and societal expectations, with friends and family, and also himself.

Beyond the Mat has won Best Sports Film at the 2013 Canada International Film Festival and was an official screenplay for the Tribeca Film Festival All-Access Program.

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