Featured Short

The Champion

Former Iraqi boxing champion Estaifan Shilaita overcomes tremendous hardships as he builds a special bond with his family and taxi cab customers in Chicago.

It takes hard work and a strong vision to create a successful and impactful documentary film about a relatively unknown character. But more than anything else, you need a subject that can carry passion and significant charisma to drive the viewer’s interest. Former Iraqi boxing champion Estaifan Shilaita is just that breath of fresh air, his unique personality and perspective, along with the relationship he shares with his family reveal why he is, “The Champion.”

Brett Garamella randomly met Estaifan Shilaita one day in 2009 in his taxi in downtown Chicago. A few months later, he moved to New York City and began collaborating with Patrick McGowan on some film projects. Before long, the two filmmakers decided to take the leap to travel to Chicago and film “The Champion.”

We always found Estaifan to be an entertaining individual, but we also felt that if we were able to make it short, make the pacing feel quick and make it really visual, we could hopefully offer something to an audience. The film took us a few years to complete, but over that time we really began to feel like part of the Shilaita family. Sharing their story became sharing the life of people close to us; it really became a personal story.

Despite its length and perhaps slow-sounding premise, the short doc ramps through with an edgy pace to keep the already interested audience bearing on their toes. Built by character but pursued by momentum, “The Champion” is a true example of modern dynamic documented content.

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