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Born Warriors Review

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  • Born Warriors Review

    I just wanted to do a quick review of the Born Warriors trilogy now that I had some time to absorb it all. I put this in a separate topic thread from the Burmese Boxing thread which has many of the clips and links to the project so others could add their reviews and questions.

    First, we have Born Warriors Special Edition. This is a 3 disk set totaling close to six hours. Yes, six hours. But its laid out so well in chapters that you tend to watch it through then go back to the chapters that you really wanted to examine more closely. I watched in one go, all six hours and it left me wanting more. Luckily there was still two hours of Bound Fists to get through.

    Born Warriors is disk one. Its something that is quite rare. It actually takes you back in time to before the opening of the country. The whole dvd looks and feels different. It totally captures the feel of the training and fighters. Born Warriors is a shorter documentary that many of us saw in various edits during Vincent Giordano's screenings and talks. It was his idea to do shorter pieces and link them together like a book in chapters. He has succeeded admirably in that the whole trilogy doesn't just zig zag all over the place but stays focused on Lethwei and what its about and how it evolves. The idea is that this documentary is about Lethwei the sport. Everything evolves around the sport and what is happening to it as the decades past. What is worth the price of the dvd is literally training and training methods section because it exposes how little we know about Lethwei and its training methods in the West. In the West, we mostly have modified lethwei or various offshoots of it. But here you see it practiced and taught at the root level. The other features are Bouts from the archives, which showcases three fights with three different types of Lethwei fighters. These are full bouts. It closes out with a look at Lethwei Yei, the preflight ritual. This is a prelude to a deeper investigation that goes into Lekka Moun Khat on the Born Warriors Redux: Bound Fists dvd. A great disk all by itself.

    Born Warriors Redux is disk two. Redux is a documentary that takes us through the opening of the country and how this effects the sport of Lethwei. I found this to be a more critical in terms of how the country is viewed and what is going on. In the directors cut Bound Fists the critical focus is lessened and expanded so the scope is more focused on the rural communities and the struggles of the sport there. Redux tries to mirror the original Born Warriors as it takes us through this new terrain. Some of the people return but they are older now and some of the participants have passed away during the process of making the documentaries. Several of the docs or material is dedicated to many of them. Its fascinating to watch the country and the sport change. It's also a deeply absorbing portrait of a world and culture we rarely have seen or know. I watched this one dvd several times then went back to the original Born Warriors to go back and see the changes more clearly.

    The bonus material or chapters are equally great on every level. Training and Training methods Volume 2 is outstanding. The ability to move around and capture a myriad of camps and trainers like this is staggering. The next several chapters go in-depth into Kayin New Year, Thingyan(burmese new year) and Pagoda festivals-- I doubt if any outsider has expanded on and explained this material in such depth anywhere else. The end notes closes this dvd and takes us back around to see what has happened to some of the camps and trainers and how events are evolving.

    The Bonus Disk is disk three. This includes the fascinating Born to Battle: Burma vs Thailand documentary that was originally a special Vanishing Flame release that has been updated and re-edited for inclusion in this set. Once again, a fountain of endless insights that can be found nowhere else. Fight Day takes us into what goes into the day of the fight and concludes with a full match. Bouts from the Archives V2 focuses on the opening fights and fighters, the raw kids who fight 3 and 4 rounders then goes into a full 5 round fight featuring ex Champ Lone Chaw who is also featured in Bouts from the Archives V1. This is a towering effort all the way around.

    Born Warriors Redux; Bound Fists is a single disk. It is a special directors edit. This is the one to get if you want to know about the sport right now or you want a tremendous and captivating overview or you just want one disk to see what it is about before investing in the three or two disk sets. Even if you have Born Warriors 3 or 2 disk set(which you can get without the bonus third disk), you want this presentation as well. The doc is fully realized and crystal clear. This goes much deeper into the rural communities and is a faster edit that buzzes along at a fair clip overloading you with tons of information and insight. What you get in the bonus material or chapters here is all new and original. Music features an interview with Camus Celli the composer which I really liked, Mandalay revisited a section that takes us back to some of the people in the original Born Warriors to see what has happened to them, Lekka Moun Khat a great, great look at the possible genesis of the opening move that has become a symbol of Lethwei, a close look at the Thut Ti camp in Yangon, the Shwe Methar Camp and Mundontha Redux that covers a camp in the Mon State. What you notice is how things are now changing rapidly, camps keep changing names and moving around to try to keep up and stay relevant and competitive.

    If you get the Born Warriors 3 disk set and the solo Bound Fists disk you are getting an almost eight hour immersion into the sport of Lethwei told over close to two decades. This is a monumental effort that harkens back to the days of the late Donn Draeger and Robert Smith as my friend John Tellipier has said. This was also done a shoe string budget which is remarkable. It is well worth owning even if you have the slightest interest in Lethwei or fighting arts of Southeast Asia. It will only grow in value over time when they realize what a big effort this is and how it contributes to the overall understanding of this often forgotten fighting sport. Vincent Giordano has proven over and over again that he is doing work that is light years ahead of anyone in the field and this first Vanishing Flame effort is a clear example of that. Buy it and support the research as well as the next volume of Vanishing Flame releases.
    Born Warriors is a documentary that focuses on the ancient fighting sport of Lethwei. Burmese Lethwei is one of the oldest practiced combat sports in Myanmar(aka Burma).
    Last edited by george stando; 11-20-2016, 02:06 AM.

  • #2
    Awesome review, George, it covers the Born Warriors 3 disc set and the Bound Fists dvd really well.
    I agree it is a full immersion in the country and in Lethwei, the training, the teachers and the fighters. The beauty of Vincent's work is also that it is all represented and portrayed as it was/is which is a very rare thing. There is no agenda other than that of documenting and reporting truthfully-as he has also done with his previous releases.

    I also enjoyed the cross-cultural comparisons with footage of the Indian and Mongolian fighting arts which can open up further reasearch and discussions. Also composer Camus Celli compares the Burmese and Indian musics, which is another hint at the clear similarities between the arts of the two countires.

    What transpires most in my opinion are the passion and dedication of all those involved in Lethwei. Students, teachers, fighters, and Vincent's with his endless traveling, training, filming, interviewing and putting it all together coherently and clearly. It all comes through by watching the dvds, which is an amazing experience. It's no wonder at all that Born Warriors has been awarded so many awards!


    • #3
      I found Born Warriors Redux: Bound Fists to be an amazing journey inside a country and art we barely know anything about. I mean i have read articles and seen videos but not with an insiders eye on capturing it as it is. The internet outtakes alone are an amazing series of pieces that are free on the internet that are better than anything else on the art. The website is clear and concise. Its a complete package as well done as anything on the topic. Its a wonderful start to the vanishing flame series that will only get stronger especially with the Thai and Cambodian material upcoming. I should be getting the born warriors 3 disk set shortly--cant wait.


      • #4
        One of my favorites from the outtakes series: