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Slamdance 2021: “18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story”


© Photo: George Rodriguez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

How much history do walls preserve? How many interesting stories could it tell? Can you imagine the amount of knowledge we could get if the camera was able to capture history as it happened in real time? There’s an uncanny sensation when you watch documentaries like “18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story”. Sometimes there are not enough words to describe what you feel throughout as you watch it.

As someone who’s far from being a boxing or wrestling fan, “18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story” evokes in me an interesting feeling towards the unknown sport, as it tells about its birth and revival in the United States’ West Coast. It revolves around a grand building called the Olympic Auditorium, situated in Los Angeles. Opened in 1925, it held the biggest boxing matches in it, welcomed famous people in it, gave new stardom to new boxers, took the life of one and allowed one of the most fascinating individuals, Aileen Eaton, one of the most influential wrestling and boxing promoters, to reign in an era when this kind of job was considered to be a man-ish.

As a rival to the Madison Square Garden, the Olympic Auditorium is at the center of demographic issues, as it grows during hardship, racism and intolerance, but continues rising to the occasion. As we learn Eaton’s way of building a sporting empire, it becomes obvious that the woman can understand the concept of the matchmakers in boxing, its promotion and giving an opportunity to new names to shine. For them it’s like an American dream, lived through Eaton, as the goddess whose contribution to the sport is the prototype of an American dream itself expanded to the previously unknown levels. 

Filled with fascinating archival footages, exceptional direction and the right approach, Stephen DeBro’s documentary is like a requiem for a dream you don’t want to wake up from. Beautifully shot, with fun guests and insightful interviews, it will give you everything you would not dare to ask for. If you love boxing or wrestling, be ready to fall for it even more. If you are indifferent towards this sport, be prepared to embrace it. Everything about this film is a love story for each individual who has contributed towards the Olympic Auditorium and may no longer exist now. But they earn a significant spot in history no human can erase. Thankfully, “18th and Grand” cements it even more by eliminating all the doubts or scepticism of any kind if it existed before.

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