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By Mike Johnson on 2012-08-13 10:59:00
PBS today announced that would be debuting a brand new documentary on the world of Lucha Libre:


Director Carlos Avila Goes Behind the Mask to Reveal the Mysterious and Colorful World of Lucha Libre

“For the Italians there’s opera, for Mexicans it’s lucha libre.” – Lucha Libre fan

(Los Angeles, CA) — Tales of Masked Men, a new documentary about the colorful, fascinating and mysterious world of lucha libre — Mexican wrestling — will be the season opener for VOCES, Latino Public Broadcasting’s arts and culture series on PBS. Shot in Mexico and the United States and filled with the passion and excitement that defines its subject, the film explores the history of lucha libre and what has made this eighty-year-old phenomenon endure. Directed by Carlos Avila, Tales of Masked Men premieres on VOCES on Friday, September 28, 2012 from 10:00–11:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month.

Described by cultural anthropologist Heather Levi as “a sport in the key of melodrama,” lucha libre springs from the same root as American professional wrestling (i.e. Olympic and Greco-Roman style competitive wrestling), but has taken on the unique characteristics of Mexico and the country’s long-standing fascination with masks. Masks conceal faces but not feelings, allowing luchadors to transform themselves into either the character of a rudo, the rule-breaking villain, or a técnico, the fair and square, technically-proficient hero. Practiced in large and small arenas throughout Mexico and the U.S. as well as other countries, this “working class” sport is truly interactive, with multigenerational fans passionately involved in the high drama of the ring.

Tales of Masked Men introduces three wrestlers, each of whom embodies different aspects of the sport and its traditions. The most revered and famous masked Mexican wrestler of all time is El Santo, once a journeyman wrestler who struggled to find a place in the lucha libre world. El Santo rose to prominence in the ring, eventually becoming an international film and television star whose persona and humanity deeply resonated with Mexicans. Originally a rudo, El Santo ultimately transformed into an icon signifying the triumph of good over evil, a national hero in Mexico whose presence is still felt today.

Standing just 4’ 5” tall, Mascarita Sagrada is one of the most dynamic and acrobatic wrestlers working in lucha libre today. The film examines the evolution of this personcita (little person) from his early life as the sheltered child of protective parents to becoming a masked wrestler. We hear the stories of how other mini-luchadores helped Mascarita develop into the wrestling great he is today.

Finally, we meet the classic wrestler Solar. Solar is in his fourth decade as a luchador and continues to wrestle throughout the world, regularly travelling to Japan, England, the United States and other parts of Europe. Rising out of a childhood of rural poverty, Solar found an identity and a livelihood in lucha libre. Sensing that the end of his career is near, Solar trains and prepares his son, Solar Jr., to step into the ring. Ultimately he may pass the Solar persona and mask on to his son, a lucha libre tradition that ensures immortality for the character.

Featuring interviews with cultural commentators, wrestlers, and observers of the sport as well as archival footage and clips from the “masked wrestler” adventure films, Tales of Masked Men is the vibrant story of how lucha libre has taken root in Mexican and Latino culture and become an integral part of its very identify.

Tales of Masked Men is available on DVD from PBS Distribution at The film was funded by Latino Public Broadcasting and ITVS.

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Produced by Latino Public Broadcasting, VOCES is the only national television series devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience.

The series will air on four consecutive Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET, beginning on September 28, 2012. Other films in the series include Escaramuza (October 5), Unfinished Spaces (October 12), and Lemon (October 19). Funding for VOCES was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In addition to its national broadcast, VOCES will also be available for free viewing online via the VOCES website. For complete information, visit


Lourdes Grobet, Photographer

Solar, Luchador / Wrestler

Heather Levi, Cultural Anthropologist

Dan Madigan, Author / Screenwriter

Rubén Hernández-León, Sociologist

Christian Cymet, Lucha Libre archivist

Ulises Jimenez (DJ Spectro), Blogger / Journalist

Marta Turok, Folk Art Specialist

William Nericcio, Film Theorist

Xavier Garza, Author / Artist

Angel Mondragon “Gulliver,” Luchador / Wrestler

Rosa, Sister of Mascarita Sagrada
Mascarita Sagrada, Luchador / Wrestler

Negro Navarro, Luchador / Wrestler

Antonia, Solar’s wife

Solar Jr., Luchador / Wrestler

About the Filmmakers

CARLOS AVILA (Director / Producer) is an award-winning director for film and television. He grew up in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles to Mexican and Peruvian parents. Carlos received his film training at Loyola Marymount University and UCLA’s Graduate School of Theatre, Film and Television. Carlos made his feature film directing debut with New Line Cinema's 2000 release, Price of Glory starring Jimmy Smits, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Ron Perlman. This family drama set against the world of amateur and professional boxing was developed at the Sundance Institute's Director and Writer Labs. Carlos also served as Executive Producer on the film's groundbreaking soundtrack album that helped introduce Latin rock and hip-hop to a wide audience. In 2001, he was awarded the ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) award for Best Director for his work on this film. Carlos is the creator of Foto-Novelas, a Humanitas Prize-nominated PBS television series comprised of half-hour dramas in the spirit of The Twilight Zone. Foto-Novelas was recently added to the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Television and Radio. His award-winning short films, Distant Water and La Carpa have screened at numerous film festivals in the United States and worldwide. Carlos directed the pilot to the Sony Television / Telemundo detective series, Reyes y Rey and directed the “Street Money” episode of the long-running CBS series, Cold Case. Tales of Masked Men is Carlos’s first long form documentary. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America.

THOM CALDERON (Co-Producer / Editor) Credited on dozens of films over twenty years, Thom has worked extensively in Hollywood feature film post-production on projects ranging from comedies and action to dramas. Besides a long association with Carlos Avila, he has worked with such directors as John Singleton, Michael Apted, Taylor Hackford, Gregory Nava, and Billy Crystal. As First Assistant Editor, Thom has contributed to big budget Hollywood releases including Captain America, First Avenger, Dragonball: Evolution, Enough and My Family. Most recently, Thom edited Fox International’s Spanish/Argentine co-production, Todos Tenemos un Plan starring Viggo Mortensen.

About ITVS

The Independent Television Service funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy® Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Monday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS. Mandated by Congress in 1988 and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, ITVS has brought more than one thousand independently produced programs to date to American audiences. For more information about ITVS visit

About Latino Public Broadcasting

Latino Public Broadcasting is the leader in the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. Latino Public Broadcasting provides a voice to the diverse Latino community throughout the United States and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

About PBS

PBS, with its nearly 360 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches 124 million people through television and 20 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front-row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website,, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

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