Los Angeles, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/27/2017 -- The Oil Wrestler chronicles the incredible story of Gokhan, a 40-year-old Turkish business owner living in North Carolina who turned himself into a real, modern-day gladiator. One day at work, Gokhan received the terrible call that his sister had been shot dead in eastern Turkey. Upon returning home to bury her body and investigate her death, he embarked on a soul-searching walk across the entire country – over 1,000 miles – in the dead of winter. But after completing his journey, a near-fatal motorcycle accident shattered his leg and left him in a coma. He awoke with a new, unshakable determination to reclaim his heritage – by becoming an oil wrestler and doing battle in his hometown in the massive gladiatorial arena of Kirkpinar. But to do so, he would have to overcome his age, inexperience, and injuries to entirely reshape his body.
"I stopped my life to film this project," says director Brian Felsen, "because I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime story. Gokhan's quest is larger and stranger than your typical underdog tale. It's also about reclaiming your roots, and it spotlights an ancient tradition that no one really knows about outside of Turkey."
Oil wrestling dates back to ancient Egypt and Assyria and continues in the present day, where it is the national sport of Turkey. For over 650 years, the Turkish town of Edirne has hosted the Kirkpinar summer tournament, where over 1,500 wrestlers compete over three days for the Golden Belt, to be called "the best of the best."
The sport is unusual and exciting to watch. The wrestlers wear only a pair of leather pants made from the hide of water buffalo (a "kispet") and are doused in olive oil before the bout begins. The goal is to wear down one's opponent until he is pinned, his kispet is torn, or he is lifted from the ground and carried five paces. The grueling match is difficult and dangerous, and most wrestlers train for it for their entire lives.
"This film has so much pageantry, inspiration, humor, and heart," says Felsen. "As a filmmaker, I've never been so challenged or lucky as to have so many unique and interesting facets to pull together in a single narrative. It's the unlikely story of how Gokhan transforms his battered body into a fighter's physique to compete in the biggest competition of the sport in the world. But it also takes us from North Carolina to remote villages in Turkey, where he must train with and compete against wrestlers who have been doing this their whole lives. And the film also explores the amazing rituals and tradition of oil wrestling – which most people outside of the region have never seen."
The Oil Wrestler is narrated by World Heavyweight Champion Wrestler Colt Cabana. The film is complete and ready for distribution.
For more information about oil wrestling and the film, please visit theoilwrestler.com.
For press photos, including before and after pics of Gokhan's physical transformation, please visit http://www.theoilwrestler.com/media/.
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