Jason Hutt was always competitive — in fact while at Churchill High School he helped the soccer team go undefeated for three years straight between 1992 and 1994. He cites this competitive nature as one of the reasons the story of Orthodox Jewish boxer Dmitriy Salita interested him so much, to the point where the former Potomac resident decided to make a documentary film entitled "Orthodox Stance" about Salita.
"The film is about how all these different and unique cultures affect Dmitriy. How the Jewish and boxing elements come together and how Dmitriy integrates them into his life and worldview," said Hutt over the phone from New York City, now his home. "I think the film has a universal appeal because it comes down to Dmitriy trying to have a meaningful life and incorporating Judaism and pro boxing into that."
Hutt isn’t the only person who thinks the film is promising. The documentary has been selected, out of nearly 1,800 submissions, into the SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, running June 12 – 17, and will have its premiere on June 13 at 8 p.m.
ONE OF THE FESTIVAL’S themes is "Beyond Belief," focusing on films that discuss faith and its impact on people and society. The theme runs through nine of the films and a few shorts.
"Last year we noticed a natural theme towards religion because of the climate and we felt committed to responding to this natural tendency to the subject of religion. We were keeping our eyes open for films that were deeply into the interplay of faith and society, and ‘Orthodox Stance’ focuses on that wonderfully," said Sky Sitney the Director of Programming for SilverDocs.
The title of "Orthodox Stance" refers both to Salita's faith and an actual fighting stance in boxing. The film follows Salita through three years of his boxing career, from his pro debut to his shot at a championship title, all the while presenting how the seemingly contradictory cultures of professional boxing and Orthodox Judaism work together to support Salita in his goals.
Hutt became interested in Salita when his mother sent him an article that on the boxer that she had read in the Washington Post.
"I didn’t know that he would make a documentary," Hutt’s mother, Judith Hutt, said from her Potomac home where Jason grew up, "I just thought it was an interesting topic that might spur his interest. I knew they both lived in Brooklyn…and I thought that the fact that Dmitriy was Jewish and an athlete would be of interest to Jason."
Hutt got in touch with Salita and started shooting in 2002. He followed the young boxer around for the next three years until 2005 when he started editing the film in preparation for release at a festival.
"For three years I followed Dmitriy around with a camera. I’d call Dmitriy up a few times a week to figure out what was going on in his life. I was constantly heading out to his fights or training. I just wanted to follow his story with my camera," said Hutt.
HUTT DID NOT ALWAYS plan on working in the world of documentary film, or any sort of film for that matter. He studied economics at Harvard and didn’t take a single film or photography class at Churchill.
"He is an interesting story because he was an economics major and was in line to work on Wall Street or something like [that]," said Judith Hutt. "Then he took an internship in Hollywood over the summer, and after he graduated they called him up and told him to come work for them."
His first film was "Sausage Here," a short documentary about the colorful street vendors by Fenway Park in Boston. He then went on to work in Hollywood as an assistant to Academy Award-nominated director/producer Mike Tollin on sports-related feature films such as "Summer Catch, "Hardball" and "Ready to Rumble." In 2001 Hutt returned to non-fiction filmmaking to make "Breezewood, Pennsylvania," a verite' portrait of a bustling truck stop town at the crossroads of two US interstate highways which was broadcast by PBS affiliates in spring 2004.
"I spent a year and a half in Hollywood working on studio films and I just found out I wasn’t interested in that sort of thing, so I left," said Hutt of his return to documentary filmmaking.
NOW THAT HE HAS finished "Orthodox Stance," Hutt is excited that the film will be premiering so close to his home town.
"I’m incredibly excited to be premiering the film in front of friends and family in the D.C. area," he said, "I’ve been making the film for five years now so everyone has been hearing about a lot."
Still, the most important aspect for Hutt is to get the story out there.
"I’m just glad that Dmitriy and his trainers and manager gave me access into their lives," he said, "I’m glad I was able to capture that. Not for my sake or their sake but for the world in general. That’s why you make a film, to show the story to the world."