One fateful evening Peter McCarthy was violently attackedwithout provocation while walking back home in his native Ireland. The attack not only left emotional scars, but also nearly cost Peter his left eye! This attack, this single act of aggression was the catalyst for a journey of self discovery and undeniable honesty with himself and the world around him. A Good Dog Film by Peter McCarthy and Shane Sutton, winner of best documentary Long Island Film Festival, "Fight or Flight."
Filmed over 5 years, released in 2007, the above clip for "Fight or Flight" stumbled across my email in a drunken stupor one evening a few months back, and I must admit I was very excited to check this documentary out. Not only am I into documentaries of various sorts, but this subject matter piqued my interest, as the same questions Peter had so did many martial artists / fighters. Why do we fight? Why does violence exist? How do we face these aspects of our society?
Over 78 minutes we are led on a journey throughout Thailand's various Muay Thai training camps where Peter has decided to learn the art of Muay Thai. After his assault Peter had lots of anger, which later he discovered was rooted in fear and emotional trauma he has carried much of his life. A severe falling out with his brother is also alluded to, but never elaborated upon which after viewing the whole picture, I believe was an integral part that was left out intentionally or otherwise. Upon reading an article in the paper about the kickboxing art of Muay Thai Peter decided to travel and learn to fight. Admitting honestly he was not sure what he hoped to resolve in this endeavor, only that he felt this was the right path for him.
Overall "Fight or Flight" is an essay on violence and aggression within humankind. Peter discovers, via the rigorous training of Muay Thai, that he indeed harbors a lot of anger and fear of inadequacy, weakness, etc. which has led to a life of unhappiness, emptiness, and a lack of direction. Peter's expose of his emotions and his frank dissection of his being is both candid and humbling. Their is even a point in the film where Peter realizes that for most of his 20's he has walked around angry and aggressive towards society at large. Coveting these negative feelings has led to a lot of mental - emotional scarring and pain which comes out in the brutally honest world of combat sports; Muay Thai.
The footage of Peters training coupled with his actual fight footage is enough to keep the average martial arts fans engaged, but do not mistake this for a fight documentary as it is not. The interviews interspersed throughout the documentary are quite insightful not only into the world of Muay Thai, but also into Buddhism and Peters involvement in it. Thailand is 90% Buddhist and Peter decides to give a silent meditation retreat a try which acts as the straw that breaks Peter's back. He breaks down and cannot finish the retreat, yet comes away from his talks with a priest with much insight into his outlook on life and forgiveness; something foreign to Peter.
In the end I was left wanting a bit more from "Fight or Flight" and Peter. His insight into the world of violence, aggression, and ultimately how we deal with these primal urges was spot on but really seemed rushed to conclude the film as if there was a time limit!? But perhaps that was the point. Perhaps the viewer is not supposed to know how the story ends for Peter. Just like the martial arts, the viewer is led down a path, but ultimately the practitioner must walk the path alone and live with his/her own choices. We all must deal with the inner struggle that Peter experiences, and the answer, the result, is going to be quite different with each and everyone of us. This is the nature of life.
An excellent documentary to add to your must view list as this will create conversation regardless of the company you keep. Great editing and score as well, I hope to see more from Peter McCarthy and Shane Sutton in the near future.