*NOTE: This review is going to be a CAPSULE review, which means it’ll be a tight, quick critique of the film.
Ringside is a Hoop Dreams-like documentary about two athletes from the south side of Chicago searching for success. But much like Hoop Dreams, Ringside isn’t focused on the sport the athletes are playing, but focuses on the athletes and their families.
Kenneth Syms Jr. and Destyne Butler Jr. were two of Chicago’s most talked about boxers when they were younger. Both kids were touted as possible future Olympians who could end up being world champions. As the two got older, their paths differed drastically. Kenneth, who’s father kept him on a short leash and put all of Kenneth’s focus on boxing, is still a rising star on the Chicago boxing circuit being looked at by agencies and being invited to Olympic trials. Destyne, however, is sitting in prison after being caught up with the wrong people that led to a robbery where he got caught. The once-great boxer lost focus in the ring which got him in trouble outside of it. Ringside looks at Kenneth’s rise in the amateur boxing world while contrasting it with Destyne’s life in prison away from ring.
Ringside is really a powerful look at parenting. Though both kids came from relatively the same background and were equally talented in their respective sports, it was their upbringing that changed the course of their lives. Kenneth’s dad was strict and didn’t let Kenneth get in any trouble and lose track of his boxing talent. Destyne’s dad allowed him to live a life outside of the ring which got him into trouble and took him away from his Olympic dreams. Both fathers love their children more than the world, but we see how keeping your kids focused can lead to great success.
The runtime is really short and I wish we were able to be with these kids for longer, but director André Hörmann gives us an emotional, exciting documentary that features great boxing action, powerful messages, and an inspiring story.
Ringside played at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival in the DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION category.