Documentary, Feature, Boxing, Sports, Documentary, Immigration
From boxing’s world-famous Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, New York to the world class Great Western Forum of Los Angeles, TitleShot tells the truest of stories as it focuses its lens on sides of the sweet science rarely seen at once — the triumphs, heartbreaks, and intimate behind-the-scenes realities of navigating the harsh realm of professional boxing. TitleShot follows a Ugandan immigrant’s struggle to rise from the unknown and achieve what’s nearly impossible: to become a champion. TitleShot is an all-vérité documentary feature film, a stunning time capsule shot between 1995 to 1997; like the best vérité, it takes the viewer behind the spotlight to a hidden real world. And now a vanishing one. It unveils a touching, difficult, and beautiful truth, uncensored. Godfrey Nyakana has come from Africa to the south Bronx, hoping to win enough fights to challenge for the junior middleweight title. He’s an archetypal hero, stoic yet vulnerable, and the ally/mentor is the memorable Bobby Cassidy, an aging Irish-American fighter turned trainer. Bobby fought 17 times against top-ten fighters, but he never got his title shot; what he has left now is wisdom, memories, and the still-burning ambition to enable a champion. Like 20 Feet from Stardom, TitleShot is about the edges of fame. Godfrey’s friend says about him, “This guy is the future, right here. Gonna be the future.” But the film pairs the wish for stardom to a hard-scrabble immigrant story, the story of a guy who comes from nothing and works so hard he gets close enough to taste it. Godfrey’s struggle to win is a metaphorical version of every immigrant’s hope to make it in America. You need to work hard enough to show who you are and what you can do. Like millions of others, Godfrey takes on the most basic and naked and noble human pursuit there is: to stand up and fight, so you can live. We hear Bobby Cassidy’s mantra as he trains Godfrey: “Keep your hands up.” It means, Don’t let them hit you. You drop your hands, you’re gonna get hit. Story of every immigrant’s life.The title shot is the fight of Godfrey’s life. Literally. We watch Godfrey rise to the title shot itself, training in Brooklyn’s world-famous Gleason’s gym, and find ourselves in a fighter’s world. We see cameos from famous fighters and trainers like “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Kevin Kelley, and Muhammad Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, and manager now boxing promoter Tom Loeffler -- but this is a real-world place of human struggle and endless work and physical pain, miles from the flash and the blaring promotion of bigtime sports. The cold-blooded business of boxing and money is juxtaposed against Godfrey’s physical courage and the tight emotional bond between Godfrey and Bobby. It’s a roller-coaster story as Godfrey fights, loses, rises, and fights again. He’s the guy who coulda been a contendah, and then, surprisingly, finds that he is. But how good is his best shot – and what does it feel like to emerge from shadows into spotlight, and give all your strength and soul there? Can he come to the south Bronx and become, against the odds, the champion of the world? And still may not be good enough…..? Boxing after all is the place where dreams go to die. No one ever gets out of the ring unbeaten, It's not just about triumph or failure, but life or death.
Selections and Awards:
Las Vegas Premiere Film Festival Las Vegas August 11, 2023 World Official Selection United States