Exclusive: "I Am Duran" Director Talks Film's Creation, Spending Time With Roberto Duran

Mat Hodgson, the director of a documentary focusing on legendary boxer and former multiple-time world champion Roberto Duran, talks about how the film was conceived and what he experienced during the project.

"I Am Duran" is a film that focuses on Duran's boxing career and its impact on his native country of Panama during a time of extreme political turmoil that included a period of heavy tension with the United States. The film has Duran talk about his time growing up in Panama and how the country changed in the 80s alongside Duran's career with interviews featuring the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and key political figures in Panama.

In an exclusive interview with Fightful, Hodgson revealed how the project came together. According to Hodgson, it all started when Hodgson first met Duran while he was making another documentary, this one on former British world champion Ricky Hatton. After hearing more about Duran and Panama during the 80s from his wife, Hodgson got inspired with telling a story that went beyond Duran as a boxer.

"Well, what's this random Englishman doing a documentary on Roberto Duran of Panama right? Well, I met Roberto when I was doing a documentary on Ricky Hatton a few years ago and Roberto came into the room and he lit up the room. Obviously, everybody knows who he is, but there was something next level about his charisma and presence that got me thinking, 'This person is a character.' Fast forward a few years and I met my wife, who grew up in Panama and she was talking about Roberto Duran and Panama history and I started putting together the two storylines together in my head. I found the politics really interesting and important to the story and I wanted to do something that wasn't just some sports story and have some other layers to it. I went to Panama, did some research and everybody kept telling me the same thing. They said they went through some terrible things in the 80s and whenever the country was down, Duran would come and pick them up and was their beacon of hope and thar's where it came from," Hodgson said.

Throughout the entire filming process, Hodgson spent a lot of time talking with Duran, but admitted that most of the conversations took place on camera as he didn't want to waste any potential material for the documentary. Hodgson did reveal one particular off-camera moment in which Duran was emotional when talking about the state of Panama today.

"Roberto always kept his guard up and certain things and was relaxed on other topics. I think there was one conversation where he let his guard down during lunch and he was talking about Panama itself and I think he was suggesting Panama was in such a great state now and that he was sort of at peace now. It was very emotional seeing him satisfied. That really stuck out to me. He's at peace with everything and I loved how he talk about everything," Hodgson said.

One thing that Hodgson wanted to emphasize throughout the film is showing the most human side of Duran, getting his unfiltered feelings throughout several moments of his life. The British director said viewers will be able to experience a lot of what Duran felt during key moments of his life throughout the film.

"I think you go through that journey with him in the film. What you see is what you get. I think that's one of the reasons why people like him so much. He's beyond judgment. He's not trying to sugarcoat anything and he's not trying to put himself in a sort of false mode," Hodgson said.

As for the overall message that Hodgson wants to get across to viewers through the film is how one person can have such a profound impact on so many people through sport alone.

"For me, sport and heroes are important. That's what we're getting at with this film. He might be a reluctant hero. He might be an active hero, it doesn't matter. People need heroes. Sport is very important in culture and society to permeate beyond the obvious. I would like to think that when the people see the connection between Roberto and his country, for me it's very obvious. He's more interesting because he's sort of a flawed hero, but we need these characters in life. We need these heroes. Kids needs them and adults need them and that's what I hope comes out of this story: hope and inspiration," Hodgson said.

"I Am Duran" is currently available on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and other digital platforms. The full interview can be seen at the top of the page.

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