Ariane Fortin and Mary Spencer's lives were inextricably linked -- the rise of one inevitably meant the fall of the other. This was one of our first revelations about the film we were making. As we sat crouched beside the boxing ring, Lorraine in the blue corner and Juliet in the red, our cameras capturing the fight from their respective angles, we watched their fates unfold before our eyes.
The room was electric. The crowd cheered, hollered, hissed and booed, unleashing years of loyalty and anticipation. They knew the story too, over the past three years they had become invested, watching these two women fight for the chance to make it to the Olympics. And there, right before us, was the moment that would determine everything - who would rise and who would fall. Our documentary film, Last Woman Standing, tells the story of Ariane and Mary, two world champion boxers, former friends, and one-time teammates, forced to fight one another for the shared dream of making history at the first Olympic Games to include women's boxing.
We are often asked how we came to Mary and Ariane's story. The truth is, it kind of fell in our laps. We were both training at The Blue Cat Boxing Club in Montreal; Lorraine was competing as an amateur boxer and Juliet trained as part of the non-competitive workout. We knew each other, but not well. We certainly had no idea that we would take a leap of faith and partner up as a writer/director team on a feature film. It was at our boxing coach's birthday party that we began discussing the debut of women's boxing at the Olympics. There would only be three weight categories for women and women the world over were gaining or losing weight for the chance to qualify at the Olympics. In Canada, we had two World Champions who moved into the 75kg weight category. Both were favorites to win an Olympic gold medal, but only one could go. Mary and Ariane's story was already a movie, just waiting for someone to pick up a camera and make it. Juliet had a background in film and radio and Lorraine in creative writing and documentary photography. We decided to combine our skills and make this movie together. We reached out to Ariane and Mary and they were eager to participate. By the time Prospector Films came on board, Lorraine was pregnant and Juliet was in the middle of her Master's degree. Our lives and careers were heading in new directions, but we believed in Mary and Ariane's story and in our ability to tell it.
The year and a half that followed took us and our crew (and Lorraine's newborn baby) to Holland, Germany, Mexico, Cape Breton, China, and eventually to the Olympic Games in London. We followed Ariane and Mary all over the world, but no matter how far their paths diverged, their lives, to us, remained connected. Mary and Ariane were no longer speaking, but their lives spoke to each other. Their friendship was on hiatus, but in some ways they couldn't be closer.
Making Last Woman Standing was an adventure and dream come true. It was our first time directing a feature-length film and our first time working as a collaborative team. The year and a half of filming was intense, trailing after these two determined women, watching them face devastating defeats and then get up, dust themselves off, and rise again to meet the next challenge. This film is about a lot of things -- friendship, dreams, the fragility of success -- but it is also about heart. Ariane and Mary are champions, not by some fluke, but because champions are special. Their desire to work hard, to be the strongest and the most disciplined is remarkable. And the reserve of willpower that they are able to draw upon in their darkest hours is truly inspiring.
It's been over a year since we sat crouched outside Mary and Ariane's corners, waiting to see how their stories would unfold. Once the bell rang and the room emptied, we were torn. We were elated for one and devastated for the other. That both were able to capture our hearts so completely is a testament to their characters. It was a privilege to be allowed into Mary and Ariane's lives and a real honour to make this film and be part of their adventure. We hope they will capture your heart as well.
Last Woman Standing will have its world premiere at Hot Docs International Film Festival on April 26th at 6:30pm (Tiff Bell Lightbox). Subsequent screenings: April 28th at 12:30 (Bloor Cinema) and May 3rd at 1:30 (Tiff Bell Lightbox). For more information or to purchase your tickets go to: http://www.hotdocs.ca//film/title/last_woman_standing. Visit our Facebook page here.