There's something innately dispiriting about documentaries in which subjects angrily demand that the filmmakers stop shooting, or ostentatiously shut and/or lock doors to convey that filmmakers aren't wanted. In the frustrating, underachieving documentary Raging Dove, the filmmakers seem to get shut down every time the film threatens to become interestingonce during a heated dispute that seems on the verge of coming to blows, and again during a sit-down between the film's pugilist hero and Yasser Arafat.
Arafat is only featured in a quickly interrupted cameo, but his shadow looms large over the film, which follows the life and hard times of champion welterweight Johar Abu Lashin, an Israeli Arab of Palestinian descent. As the film begins, Lashin is fighting under the imaginative moniker "Israeli Kid"; that name ropes in big Jewish crowds who wind up disappointed that the Kid entering the ring under an Israeli flag is a Muslim. Jewish crowds won't accept Lashin because he's an Arab, while Arab crowds have a hard time forgiving him for fighting under an Israeli flag. As Lashin himself says at one point, he's a hero without a home, and much of the film documents his valiant attempts to bring championship fights to his hometown of Nazareth as well as to the Gaza Strip.
Lashin's dream quickly descends into a political quagmire, making Raging Dove the odd boxing movie in which the primary action revolves more around blasting through red tape and navigating treacherous bureaucracies than delivering uppercuts or dodging jabs. Director Duki Dror works overtime to pump up the drama with florid, extravagantly purple narration that posits Lashin's dogged attempts to make a decent living as nothing less than a mythic quest with international ramifications. But the film never punctures the surface of Lashin's affable yet hardly galvanizing personality. Instead, it heaps more mythic, social, and political weight on Lashin's life and career than it can adequately withstand. Beyond his tangled heritage and nationality, Lashin simply doesn't seem particularly compelling, and he communicates largely in the empty happy talk of athletes forced, before and after every fight or game, to repeat the same mindless clichés about giving 110 percent and trusting God. Raging Dove tries to establish Lashin as a tragic hero doomed by the tensions afflicting his homeland, but it doesn't possess the gravity, weight, or footage to fulfill its grand ambitions.