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Bryan Storkel is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who loves quirky characters and is fascinated by religious topics. His work as editor and cinematographer includes Strictly Background (MFF 2008). Storkel's directorial debut, Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians played at over 40 festivals and won 10 Best Documentary Awards.
A recent trend has found Christian pastors incorporating cage fighting and mixed martial arts into their services. But as the feature documentary Fight Church asks: “Can you really love your neighbor as yourself and then, at the same time, knee him in the face as hard as you can?” Skillfully directed by Academy Award winner Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel, the film is bound to challenge expectations and stir heated debate.
Pastor Paul Burress is the chief subject. He is an MMA athlete himself, trains members of his congregation in the sport, and organizes matches at his church. While Burress and others see their approach to the sport in balance with their faith and effort to spread their religious ideals, detractors like Father John Duffell find a direct conflict between biblical values and the organized promotion of violence. Throughout the film we’re offered a range of perspectives, from current and former ministers on both sides of the argument, as well as professional UFC fighters and government lawmakers. We follow as both Burress and Duffell travel to Albany to defend their positions in a case determining the legality of MMA fighting in New York. Meanwhile, a match in the South pits pastor against pastor, and an internet feud sparks a return to the sport for another, who believes “mainstream Christianity has effeminized men.”
Armed with a host of provocative subjects, the directors of Fight Church are able to take an impressively objective approach that rewards viewers with the freedom to come to their own conclusions. (Mitchell Goodrich)