DATELINE: MARCH 17, 2000
Director Barry Blaustein’s critically acclaimed documentary, Beyond the Mat, has its nationwide, theatrical release
The film takes one of the first in-depth looks at the industry, filming life behind the scenes of professional wrestling, including backstage shots at WWE, ECW and independent events. It also separately chronicles the travels of mat legends Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake Roberts.
Produced over three years with a mere $500,000 budget, a grassroots campaign by wrestling fans led to this March 2000, national roll out, and subsequently, a profit of over $2 million at the box office.
The film was named Best Documentary at the Cinequest Film Festival, and was also nominated by the Director’s Guild Association for best documentary and best director. The book, The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, includes Beyond the Mat in its list, declaring that it “works on an almost Shakespearean level.”
“At first, this behind-the-scenes documentary about professional wrestling seems as if it will be an unabashed fan’s whitewash of the increasingly bizarre and popular world of ‘sports entertainment,’ as it is known. But director Barry Blaustein (a Saturday Night Live veteran who has cowritten many of Eddie Murphy’s films) goes much deeper than you’d expect in a film that is at once entertaining and disturbing. By focusing on a trio of wrestlers who give him surprising access, Blaustein uncovers human stories that can be wrenching in their stark honesty. That’s particularly true of one-time superstar Jake “the Snake” Roberts, whose career has fallen on hard times because of a crack habit; Roberts brings Blaustein along for his first encounter in several years with his grown, estranged daughter. Blaustein also goes into the lives of Terry Funk and Mick “Mankind” Foley in ways that are both revealing and, at times, upsetting. More than just a fan’s appreciation, this is that rare documentary that shows you sides of a familiar subject you never knew existed.”