Tales of Masked Men Opens New Season of Voces on PBS
There is only one national television series “devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience,” Voces on PBS (produced by Latino Public Broadcasting). Its new season opens Friday, September 28, 2012, at 10:00 p.m. (check local listings) with the presentation of Tales of Masked Men, a documentary by Carlos Avila that examines the lucha libre phenomenon.
There are times when reviewers watch things in which they are not remotely interested. Those are “multi-tasking” times when we entertain ourselves with Sudoku, crocheting, whittling, or brushing the dog. I fully expected the time I would spend watching Tales of Masked Men would be multi-tasking time, and that I would engage in an activity that would allow me to pay attention (sort of) to the documentary while I accomplished something else. I did not expect that Tales of Masked Men would hook me from the very first scene and that I would find the subject of Mexican wrestlers, or luchadors, to be not only interesting, but fascinating and illuminating.
Tales of Masked Men explores lucha libre as a reflection and component of Mexican culture. Both luchadors and fans express what the sport (although some would argue that it’s not a sport) has meant to them. Wrestlers have turned from poverty to celebrity due to the highly theatrical events held in arenas throughout Mexico and the United States. Some are regarded as idols or symbols of national identity.
Viewers will meet three wrestlers and learn their stories: El Santo who is “the most revered and famous masked Mexican wrestler of all time…a national hero…whose presence is still felt today”; Mascarita Sagrada, a personcita (little person) who left behind a sheltered childhood and developed into a wrestling great; and Solar, a luchador who has been wrestling for over 30 years and is preparing his son to take his place in the ring.
Participants in Tales of Masked Men include specialists from a variety of disciplines (folk art, film theory, art, screenwriting, sociology, anthropology, and journalism), as well as wrestlers and their family members. It is a remarkable documentary that approvingly considers the culture and cultural significance of lucha libre, while profiling legendary wrestlers who have had great impact. It is also available on DVD at pbs.org/shop.