In Netflix’s forthcoming drama First Match, rising star Elvire Emanuelle plays Monique, a teenage girl from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood who builds a tough skin through all her years of foster care. After reaching out with her estranged father (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) she decides that wrestling is the only way to connect with him — but she isn’t wrestling other girls. She’s wrestling boys…and she’s really good at it. The Emanuelle and Abdul-Mateen joined us in the Deadline Studio at SXSW to talk about the film alongside actor Colman Domingo and the film’s writer-director Olivia Newman.
The film stemmed from a short film by Newman in 2011 that appeared at the New York Film Festival. From there, she started working with a wrestler and it just evolved into her first feature-length film that continues to champion women in front of and behind the camera.
“It’s great to tell stories about people persevering,” said Emanuelle, “and the fact that it is centered around a female persevering against their odds is just a positive message that anyone can relate.”
“We also have a strong representation of women from the directing side, producing cinematography,” adds Abdul-Mateen. “The presence was always very strong and to now be able to put that forward in this story about a young girl wrestling against guys in high school is very timely.”
To achieve the physique and discipline of a wrestler, Emanuelle trained for five weeks. And although it seems like a short time, Newman was impressed with Emanuelle’s dedication.
“She is so focused and the work is so important to her — she is so committed to it,” said Newman. “It was inspiring to me.
Watch the video above for the complete interview.
The Deadline Studio at SXSW 2018 is presented by MoviePass.