Director Gary Robinov’s film is a teachable moment for all who have a passion for dreams that they have not yet gone after.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to the 6th Annual Downtown Boca Film Festival (formerly known as the Delray Beach Film Festival), for which I had been asked to preview, and write reviews of, several entries. The Festival was presented by Best Buy and ran from April 9th through April 17th. The festival is the creation of Dr. Michael Posner, who is a lover of both film and animals; he’s a respected veterinarian in the South Florida area. While attending the festival, I sat through offerings from many different genres – but because this blog focuses on one particular movie, I will only mention my favorite from each category – animated films (Guard Dog Global Jam), documentaries (Ars Medicinia: The Art of Healing), foreign fare (The Precinct), short films (Poisonous Frogs), student films (The Storyteller), and feature length movies such as the highly entertaining, Richard L. Rollo directed, NoBody (A.K.A., Touching Lives). The film that is the subject of this blog, however, sparked my interest as soon as I read about it in the “event guide,” before I even attended the first day of the Festival; and that was the film Canvasman: The Robbie Ellis Story. I can state with absolute certainty that the very positive expectations I had before seeing the movie, were not only met, but exceeded.
Before the lights were dimmed in the theater, I had the genuine pleasure of both meeting and speaking with the writer, producer, and director of the film, Gary Robinov. The Downtown Boca Film Festival often times allows the audience to have question and answer sessions with the directors, producers, and writers of the films they’ve just seen. I was able to speak with Gary for about an hour before the film began, and based on my conversation with him, and my subsequent viewing of Canvasman, I was able to surmise that he was a man who was the embodiment of the three Ts: tact, tenacity, and talent. Tact, because he couldn’t have been nicer to both myself and my friend and writing partner Bill Millstein; tenacity, because the man has been crisscrossing the country on precious little sleep in an effort to spread the word about his film; and talent, because he’s a director who knows how to paint a visual landscape that is both interesting and effortless to watch. Never once during the film did I look at my watch, yawn, let my mind wander, or fidget. I was hooked from the opening frame to the closing credits.
Director Robinov’s Canvasman is a fifty-three minute movie produced by I.B. Red Car Productions, in association with White Dog Arts & Satronen Sound. This documentary feature film centers on sixty-six year old, that’s right, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, sixty-six year old Rob Elowitch, known to wrestling fans as Robbie Ellis. A lifelong resident of Portland, Maine, while not wrestling men four decades his junior in front of hordes of screaming fans on the independent wrestling circuit, Elowitch and his wife of fifty years, Annette, run a successful on-line art auction website. For years the married couple co-owned, and were proprietors of, one of the most highly respected, premier art auction houses on the Eastern seaboard, the Barridoff Galleries, which showcased and sold works by exceptional artistic talents such as Thomas Eakins (The Gross Clinic, 1875), and Winslow Homer (Rowing Home, 1890).
To look at Elowitch, the first thought that springs to mind would not be wrestler, but that quickly changes while watching his story unfold. Director Robinov and his cinematographer Daniel E. Davis introduce to the world a man that is the encapsulation of those who never gave up on their dreams, while keeping themselves solidly grounded in reality. The old saying “don’t quit your day job,” is something which Elowitch has lived his life by, and that “day job” has afforded him a comfortable lifestyle to the point where he doesn’t have to risk injury as a combatant of the squared circle. He does it due to his endearing love for the world of sports entertainment…and that risk is not without reward; he has won twenty-four wrestling titles along the way of his four decade journey.
Featured in Sports Illustrated on December 3, 1985 and inducted into the New England Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008, Rob Elowitch is a walking contradiction. A lover of fine food, wine, and art, he knows that he’s not living a lifestyle which adheres to normal social conventions that pertain to the majority of men his age, and in this blogger’s opinion, I say “more power to him!” Robinov demonstrates with his film, in an exceptional way, that the adage coined by the late, and very erudite, Adlai Stevenson: “It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years that counts,” is a resoundingly true statement.
The way Robinov shot his film, using personal narration from both Elowitch and members of his family, as well as using clips of Elowitch’s wrestling career, not only move the story along and make it very entertaining, but, more importantly, make it a teachable moment for all who watch the movie. Forget stereotypes, naysayers, and negative people – – instead, just follow your heart. You might not be able to take a conventional route in order to attempt to achieve your dreams, but Elowitch teaches us that dreams should not remain dormant. They should be gone after with drive, zeal, and most of all a deep love for what ever dream we are chasing. Gary Robinov’s Canvasman is a must see movie for aspiring wrestlers, wrestling fans, lovers of quality film, and all of you who still have a passion in your heart for something not yet achieved. For those of you who are interested in seeing if Canvasman is going to be screened in your area or to enter a contest to win a copy of the film and autographed poster of Robbie Ellis “like” Canvasman on Facebook.