This weekend, Northwest Film Forum is screening several films—including this one!—as part of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival's Satellite Screen program. Learn more about the program here.

A comprehensive look at one of the greatest boxing rivalries of all time between Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez, La Guerra Civil is almost everything a sports documentary should be. It uncovers the emotion and passion that goes into such a grueling sport, revealing the underpinnings of what made the fights between the two men an enduring cultural moment. Even as you may find yourself wishing there could have been more than just glimpses of the iconic fights, it is still a strong encapsulation of a period in history that will live on forever.

The word "operatic" is thrown out at one point in the various interviews that make up the documentary and my goodness does it fit this story. A boxing rivalry like this is more than just a few fights, it is a spectacle that captures the world's attention. De La Hoya was an American of Mexican descent and Chávez a Mexican national. Picking sides in the fight created a schism between Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans, a divide that swept up the two fighters. The documentary excavates that in detail, not shying away from the complex identities that informed the fight's international interest.


The documentary is expansive, showing the fighters' respective journeys with remarkable access. From the Olympics to a fight at the Goodwill Games in Seattle, it covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. While straightforward from a technical aspect, Eva Longoria Bastón's directorial vision remains clear-eyed. However, there are certainly moments where many of the fights and artistry of the sport are made secondary, leaving me wishing there could have been more uninterrupted scenes of the fights.

Still, through Bastón's patient and compassionate approach to the material, you learn how the fighters' different experiences brought them into the same ring. It becomes clear that they were more alike than they were different. Even as the fights became far bigger than either of them individually, the people they have grown into now, and how they reflect back on this period of their lives, remains the most fascinating part of the documentary.

For Chávez, it is hearing him speak openly and honestly about his struggles with addiction that cuts deep. He shares how he felt an emptiness after being successful. For De La Hoya, it is about facing scrutiny all while losing much of his childhood and family on this path. By the time you get to the all-too-brief glimpse of the big fights between the two, you realize how valuable the footage in La Guerra Civil manages to be. It creates a deep sense of care for both De La Hoya and Chávez as people, not just fighters, and it will endure as an artifact of their rivalry.

You can watch La Guerra Civil virtually via Sundance and in-person at the Northwest Film Forum on Saturday, Jan. 29.