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Tuesday May 28th marks the premier of filmmaker Darren Bartlett’s Tradição, a project culminating over 10-year’s work documenting Roger Gracie and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

The film charts the rise of Roger Gracie, detailing how he became world champion and also looks at the impact jiu jitsu has had on martial arts around the world.

Bartlett (himself a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Mauricio Gomes) has had unprecedented access to Roger and the Gracie family in making this film, which contains never before seen footage and commentary from a golden era of BJJ.

We caught up with the filmmaker ahead of Tradição’s premier screening at the Curzon Cinema in London later this month.

Hi Darren, thanks for talking to us. People may not know just how long this project has been in the making – can you tell us when it all started?

Darren: I started capturing footage when I first started jiu jitsu. That was probably in 2001, when Mauricio was teaching at ‘The Third Space’. So I guess in total it’s been about 12 years, but things really got going in 2004 at the world championships. That’s where we really pick up the story.

And how would you describe the film you have created?

Darren: This is a jiu jitsu film. We touch on MMA, but it’s pure jiu jitsu really and I’d say if there was a champion to come out of the film it’s the art of jiu jitsu.

What I think is interesting about this project is the behind the scenes material I’ve managed to get; there’s an intimacy about the film. Because I have a close relationship with Roger (Gracie) and Mauricio (Gomes), paired with the fact that it was just me following them with a camera, helped capture raw emotion and intimate moments from Roger’s career.

Roger is not really known for courting the media, so how did you manage to get such great access?

I’ve known Roger since he was a blue belt, so there is trust built over a long association. The fact that I’ve been with him during this amazing journey means that peoples’ reactions to the camera were very natural – they forget I was even filming.

The access I’ve had to make this film is amazing, and that spurred me on to make the best film I possibly could. To be able to stick a camera in Roger’s face minutes after losing the absolute world championship final for a third time and capture his emotion was very lucky. He didn’t have to say a thing, it was all about telling a story.

Also, Roger’s mother was incredibly helpful and I was lucky enough to see Roger away from jiu jitsu and in a social setting. I’d sit and eat dinner with them and I was very fortunate to meet Helio Gracie, so I’ve had amazing access.

What would say you have achieved in making this film?

If I did have to say what I captured during this film, I’d say that I have captured the golden era of Brazilian jiu jitsu. When the worlds were in Brazil it was such an amazing setting, with thousands packed into this pressure cooker environment, all waiting for the absolute final.

As a jiu jitsu practitioner myself, it was amazing to absorb what was going on, not only physically, but mentally. Capturing the Gracie family, those closely associated with the family – I got a whole gamut of emotions.

I’ve made films about the Brazilian footballer Socrates, a film about Capoeira, so I see this as the final part in a trilogy about Brazilian culture. As a filmmaker, I am very drawn to Brazilian culture and that’s what has been the focal point of my work.

For Roger, I think the film depicts that even though he lost world championships, he always gained new supporters because of his behavior and poise. I think that is what a martial artist really is and it was great preparation for being a black belt myself.

For information on tickets and screening times visit click HERE or visit www.curzoncinemas.com
September 24, 2014 — Jiu Jitsu Style