Orthodox Stance

For the last 60 years, the term "Jewish boxer" has been an oxymoron. But Dmitriy Salita, a 24 year-old Russian immigrant is making history as a top professional boxer and a rigorously observant Jew. While providing an intimate, 3-year long look at the trials and tribulations faced by an up and coming professional boxer, ORTHODOX STANCE is a portrait of seemingly incompatible cultures and characters working together to support Dmitriy's rare and remarkable devotion to both Orthodox Judaism and the pursuit of a professional boxing title.

The film travels with Dmitriy from his home in the Russian section of Brooklyn to a dilapidated Orthodox synagogue, from a Black and Hispanic amateur gym in the projects to boxing's biggest stages in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Puerto Rico. Intimate verite scenes of torah study, prayer, and keeping kosher and observing the Sabbath on the road are juxtaposed with training, weigh-ins, business negotiations and locker room and fight footage. In so doing, the film reveals a first-of-its kind insider's view of professional boxing and a first-of-a kind professional boxer.

Along the way, we meet the many colorful characters that teach and guide Dmitriy, and the tension of balancing boxing and Judaism. Rabbi Zalman Liberov teaches Dmitriy how to be a good Jew and sees him as a model of religious conviction in a secular world. Bob Arum and his company Top Rank see a talented prospect with great marketing potential. And after 10 years of educating Dmitriy about boxing and life, and a prominent career dedicated to amateurs, his 80 year-old Black trainer Jimmy O' Pharrow has his last, best chance to produce a professional champion.

The film offers behind the scenes access to Dmitriy and his crew for 3 critical years, tracing his maturation in the gym, with the press, at fights and business meetings. At the same time, it explores important aspects of Dmitriy's identity and how Jimmy's boxing gym gave him sanctuary as a young immigrant, how Dmitriy found God through boxing, became observant after his mother died, and how she asked Jimmy to look after her son for her.

As he fights in New York in front of Russian immigrants, Hasidic Jews and hard-core boxing fans, Dmitriy's celebrity grows and he is ultimately invited to the White House for President Bush's Hanukkah party. Through his uncompromising devotion to boxing and Judaism, and comfort and confidence with who he is, the film shows how Dmitriy is part of these very different worlds on his own terms, in ways that feel both true to him and new to us.

After 4 years and 22 professional fights, the film culminates with Dmitriy fighting for his first professional title at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom. As the Hasidic Reggae singer Matisyahu sings Dmitriy to the ring, through a wild crowd of boxing fans and Orthodox Jews, Dmitriy has solidified himself as a top professional boxer and a modern day Jewish sports hero. ORTHODOX STANCE tells a universal story of a young man's search for meaning in life and will enable viewers to understand and appreciate boxing and boxers like never before.

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