'Stand Up' is new high-stakes wrestling documentary

"Stand Up" is a documentary about Central Dauphin East High School's wrestling program

"Stand up!" is the instruction coaches yell to a wrestler who's underneath an opponent. Appropriately enough, "Stand Up" is also the name of a brand-new documentary on high school wrestling created by a former team captain of the mat program featured in the film.

Beyond the film itself, "Stand Up" also features an early-access campaign to help raise money so that the filmmakers can hold fundraising screenings in theaters for wrestling teams across the country.

"Stand Up" 101

"'Stand Up' is a high school sports, high-stakes wrestling documentary that champions family, brotherhood, and perseverance against greater odds."

That's the opening line in the description of "Stand Up" in the film's official website.

When asked to describe the documentary, director Abdullah Abu-Mahfouz said, "It's about a high school -- Central Dauphin East in central Pennsylvania -- that hasn't had a state qualifier in five years. However, in 2014, the team had two seniors -- both best friends and rivals -- whose whole wrestling careers had built up to this."

First, some clarification. "Central Dauphin" is a name many in the wrestling community will recognize instantly. Central Dauphin High is a successful program that was the subject of the award-winning documentary "Takedowns and Falls" which remains a top-selling wrestling film available on DVD. Abu-Mahfouz made clear that the school that's the subject of his documentary "Stand Up" is Central Dauphin East -- his alma mater, which he described as being "an underdog."

"East has had challenges getting kids into the (wrestling) room, but they always have one or two guys who are great but not able to achieve the highest levels of success," Abu-Mahfouz told InterMat.

Abu-Mahfouz has a personal perspective on the situation at East… and believes he was able to share that in "Stand Up."

"The film is unique as I was team captain," Abu-Mahfouz continued. "I was able to provide an intimate perspective as a teammate. A perspective not available from filmmakers who come in from outside to shoot a documentary."

The website description continues that narrative: "'Stand Up' is a one-of-a-kind wrestling experience that immerses you as a teammate, sitting matside during the high-class wrestling action. You could not get any closer than this!"

"The goal of 'Stand Up' is to inspire wrestlers to dig deep and find success," according to Abu-Mahfouz.

The young filmmaker shared other goals for his documentary.

"I've had wrestling coaches express grievances -- having trouble getting kids to go out for wrestling, keeping them in the program, keeping them motivated. Hopefully, wrestlers and coaches can use this film to propel themselves to greater success."

Meet the filmmaker

Abdullah Abu-Mahfouz brings a unique perspective to the making of "Stand Up" as a teammate and team captain of the Central Dauphin East wrestling team… and for his heritage.

Abdullah Abu-Mahfouz
"I am a Muslim-American," Abu-Mahfouz said. "I was in second grade during 9/11."

"I faced discrimination and was ostracized as a kid. Joining the wrestling team (in middle school) was a way to stand up for myself, and become part of something bigger. I was able to find my place, and gain a feeling of comradery I never had as a kid."

"Since 9/11 there's never been a time I haven't faced discrimination," Abu-Mahfouz said. "In spending time with other teams, my team would stand up for me."

"One time, I won a match in double overtime. I got booed, people threw things. But I knew my team was behind me."

Abu-Mahfouz quickly added, "I don't want to complain about discrimination. My team helped make me confident in who I am."

As Abu-Mahfouz wrote in his director's statement at the official "Stand Up" website, "It was wrestling that transformed me from a 'foreign kid' who was ostracized and picked on, to a favorite brother amongst a family of the strongest people I knew."

"Wrestling truly is family," the director told InterMat, who then went on to describe wrestling as "a culture of a lot of heart."

"In, wrestling, it's all about heart. Many times I've seen a less-skilled wrestler beat a more skilled wrestler because of heart."

Sadly, Abu-Mahfouz's mat career came to an abrupt end.

"In my senior year I was ranked sixth in the district. Looking forward to the state tournament. However, I got injured -- suffered a broken finger -- and had to drop out of the sport."

Abu-Mahfouz did not wrestle in college. Instead, he concentrated on film school, immersing himself in a film program at Full Sail University that compressed a four-year program into just two years.

"Wrestling prepared me for the challenges of film school. Perseverance is normal for me."

"Wrestling taught me strength and showed me victory. It was not until years later that I saw this when the process of filming 'Stand Up' opened my eyes to a simple message:

"In wrestling, the inferior position is the bottom position. Your opponent's weight crushes you as he twists your neck to flip you onto your back. You've fallen, and feel the strength leaving your limbs. 'It's all over,' you say to yourself. Then you remember: the only way to get out of this situation is to catch your breath, build your base, and stand up."

"The 'stand up' is the greatest wrestling move I've ever learned."

From short film to today's full-length documentary

Abdullah Abu-Mahfouz returned to Central Dauphin East High in early 2014 to volunteer coach for the wrestling team's practices. By working out with the team every day, he came to learn more about the team… and they built a level of trust in him that allowed him to capture an inside perspective. Cevon and Joe, the two senior wrestlers that are featured in "Stand Up", were freshmen at the time Abu-Mahfouz was a senior and team captain.

Actual filming began in January 2015. The original intent was to produce a short film to share with the team. However, the project grew, as Abu-Mahfouz had accumulated over 25 hours of footage by the time filming was complete in May 2015. In December that year, test versions of "Stand Up" were being shown in the area, including a special Christmastime screening for the participants in the film and their families.

Now "Stand Up" is ready for the rest of the wrestling world to see.

Early Access

"Early Access is a chance for wrestlers, coaches, parents and friends of wrestling programs from all over the country to get involved in 'Stand Up' early, and to help get theatrical screenings off the ground," Abdullah Abu-Mahfouz told InterMat.

"'Stand Up' will be teaming up with to give you early access to the film this wrestling season, and to support our theatrical screenings," according to the documentary website. "The more Tugg screenings we have, the more we give wrestling teams the opportunity to use these events as fundraisers."

Those who contribute to the film on before December 2, 2016 will be among the first to see "Stand Up." In addition, they will be able to download the movie's theme song, and a four-minute preview. In addition, "Stand Up" offers Early Access customers the opportunity to have a custom poster designed especially for them. Simply provide "Stand Up" a favorite wrestling-related quote, and they'll put it into a poster that features an image from the film.

There are other packages available with items of interest to wrestlers and fans, including digital downloads, a special edition DVD with exclusive bonus content, an online version of "Stand Up" with bonus content, and bundle options to get "Stand Up" along with the documentary "Takedowns and Falls" and/or Michael Fessler's soon-to-be-released book "The Wrestler: A Life of Passion and the Pursuit of Greatness."

To learn more, visit the official "Stand Up" website.

And check out the three-minute video about the documentary:


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