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The Filmmaker Fund

The Cage Fighter

The Cage Fighter is the story of a man in the fight of his life. Joe Carman (40) is a blue-collar Washington State boilermaker and master plumber, a loving father and caring husband. Unable to cope with stresses at home, reeling from his wife’s MS diagnosis and an ongoing custody battle, Joe escapes back into the fighting cage – the one place he’d promised never to set foot again. By trading his inner pain for physical blows, Joe struggles to heal himself and come to terms with his past. In the fighting cage, life’s problems are as simple as they are acute; but there, unlike in the real world, an old fighter can at least go down swinging. The Cage Fighter chronicles Joe’s journey as an aging fighter and family man – from his wife’s diagnosis to the final fight of his career. Over the course of three years, events are captured through observational footage thanks to unprecedented access to Joe and his family. We capture the good, the bad and the ugly - no event has been off-limits. We see Joe fulfill his role as an affectionate family man as he cares for his ailing wife, Nori. But we also see Joe struggle to keep his life together: he battles his ex-wife in court for custody of his two older daughters, suffers a serious head injury and files for bankruptcy. As Joe’s story unfolds, his troubled past with his father resurfaces. The Cage Fighter explores the questions that many middle-aged men struggle with today: how can they best support their families? How can they balance masculinity and tenderness? How can they express love while coping with the physical violence of their past? For some men, life is the cage; it’s how you choose to fight that matters. The film will end with Joe's last fight - in the cage, in the courtroom and within himself.

Directed by

Jeff Unay

Produced by

James Orara, Jeff Unay