Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir is a determined young boxer from Canberra, who will let nothing get in the way of achieving what her heart is set upon – winning a world championship.
Being an Australian Muslim, every time Elmir pulls on the gloves to fight her opponents, she is also fighting cultural stereotypes and, as shown in a new documentary which follows her quest to win at all costs, her biggest fight is not inside the boxing ring but within herself.
Melbourne filmmaker Jemma van Loenen stumbled across Elmir’s story five years ago and was intrigued by the passionate, outspoken boxer.
“I was trying to research a similar story idea when I read an article about Elmir in 2013. I met up with her and I realised I wanted to tell her story and it all went from there,” Ms van Loenen said.
“I always wanted to tell a story that was a little bit left of field and I definitely wanted to tell something about overcoming obstacles and about that resilient thing inside people and pushing for a dream no matter what.
“This film is about her journey to become a world champion, no matter what the costs.”
The documentary brings to light how the Lebanese migrant grew up in Canberra with her mother, highlighting issues of gender equality and community inclusion.
The co-producer, writer and director’s four-year project exposes the woman behind the brash, confident, in-your-face boxer, and reveals an engrossing story of an athlete exploring her complicated identity.
“She is a bundle of contradictions but I think she actually enjoys taking people by surprise in the way that she presents herself,” Ms van Loenen said.
“I think the film essentially ended up becoming a story of who she is outside the labels of a woman, boxer and Muslim and looks at the person beneath that stuff.”
Bam Bam is van Loenen’s debut feature film and her first sports documentary, which helped her approach the story wide-eyed and with a lot to learn. It also helped the storyteller explore the intricacies and politics of the sport of boxing.
“I only had a cursory knowledge of boxing before starting this documentary, so it was a bit of a crash course into the world of boxing, with all of the politics that go on behind the scenes,” she said.
“So maybe it was a good thing that I came at it with a bit of a naive perspective because it helped to be able to explain those more intricate things in a simple way.”
The 70-minute film had its world premiere two weeks ago at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, in front of a sell-out auditorium.
“Everyone was really positive about the film and seemed to receive it well. It makes it seem worthwhile when it is received well,” Ms van Loenen said.
Bam Bam‘s second screening will take place in Canberra on Sunday 19 August at 11am at Palace Electric Cinemas in New Acton, before making its way to the Lebanese Film Festival in Sydney.
The screening is in conjunction with Fan Force and will only go ahead if enough tickets are booked by 9 August. Tickets are only available through Fan Force and people will receive a full refund if the screening does not proceed.