Movie Review: THE CHAMPION (2016)

Directed by Patrick McGowan

A former Iraqi boxing champion, Estaifan Shilaita overcomes tremendous hardships as he builds a special bond with his family and taxi cab customers in Chicago.

Shown at the September 2016 DOCUMENTARY FEEDBACK Film Festival

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

The Champion, a powerful short film hailing from the USA, directed by Patrick McGowan, is the story of Estaifan Shilaita, former Iraqi boxing champion turned taxi driver. The story follows Estaifan in his pursuit for a better life for himself in Chicago. Full of stunning re-enactments, brilliant cinematography, powerful composition and above all, breath taking humanity in its’, The Champion is all at once heartbreaking and humorous, compelling and inspiring.

Estaifan may seem on the outside like any other metropolitan taxi driver- friendly, smiling, overtly chatty. But under his ever-calm and ever beaming face is a story of rich history and deep roots. Achieving great fame in his youth in Iraq as a light weight boxer, Estaifan fled to find a better life for himself. He fell in love in Greece and took his new wife to Chicago under refugee status, where they began raising their four children under the American dream.

This film boasts excellent production value, rivaling any highly acclaimed feature. But it is not the visual beauty of the film that makes it sing- it is the honesty, the heart and humanity of Estaifan’s life. His resilience and happiness in the face of conflict is nothing less than a testament to human triumph. As a film, The Champion, glosses over the political and economic tensions that propelled our hero’s to flee Iraq. It glosses over the struggles a young refugee family must have faced in a new country. The film only briefly touches on the pain of loss that Estaifan and his wife feel, at having spent nearly forty years in the USA without ever being able to access their family in Iraq. It glosses over all of these things so that is can focus on joy. For Estaifan’s life is so utterly full of his own encapsulating joy it is tangible. The audience cannot help but be uplifted by it. And it makes this film spectacular.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film:


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