To Fight For

Gerardo Milsztein

Germany, 2010, 107 min

The film tells the story of five young men aged 16 to 20 who steal, smoke dope and enjoy getting into fights. They face the biggest challenge of their young lives: will they end up in jail or take control of their own lives and rebuild trust and closeness after years of total isolation and extreme aggression? The “year of decision” is their final chance to break the vicious circle of their lives so far, to erase false self-perceptions and come to terms with reality.

“For adults, the streets lead to the next destination. But we have no destination.”

This quote, from the beginning of the film, pretty much illustrates the perspective of the five young men in this film. Eftal, Marco, Josef, Juan and Denis are given an opportunity to avoid their prison sentence. They are offered a second chance. Fair enough. But now what? While within society in general there is a growing call for zero tolerance, merciless crackdowns and more severe punishment of such young criminals, here is an initiative to help them cope with whatever brought them to this point. The Work and Box Company offers convicted young people an alternative. The programme combines working experience and apprenticeship with boxing. And no, they will not explain what boxing has to do with work, or the whole point of it, because these angry youngsters wouldn’t understand anyway. Participating is more important than understanding the purpose.

In To Fight For (original title: Friedensschlag) the filmmakers follow the boys and their coaches, mainly Werner Makella and Rupert Voss, as they spend their days talking, boxing and working in the woods. They interview the boys on their past and their personalities, and the coaches on their approach and methods. They also include some interview footage with three of their mothers, which somewhat breaks up the unity of being with these boys and their coaches and respecting the young people’s perspective, regardless of how appropriate they are. The mothers add little to the film except the obligatory tears and explanations (“That’s been my experience, too: either hit or get hit.”)

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