TitleShot

From boxing’s world-famous Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, New York to the world class Great Western Forum of Los Angeles, TitleShot tells the truest of stories as it focuses its lens on sides of the sweet science rarely seen at once — the triumphs, heartbreaks, and intimate behind-the-scenes realities of navigating the harsh realm of professional boxing.

TitleShot follows a Ugandan immigrant’s struggle to rise from the unknown and achieve what’s nearly impossible: to become a champion.

TitleShot is an all-vérité documentary feature film, a stunning time capsule shot between 1995 to 1997; like the best vérité, it takes the viewer behind the spotlight to a hidden real world. And now a vanishing one. It unveils a touching, difficult, and beautiful truth, uncensored.

Godfrey Nyakana has come from Africa to the south Bronx, hoping to win enough fights to challenge for the junior middleweight title. He’s an archetypal hero, stoic yet vulnerable, and the ally/mentor is the memorable Bobby Cassidy, an aging Irish-American fighter turned trainer. Bobby fought 17 times against top-ten fighters, but he never got his title shot; what he has left now is wisdom, memories, and the still-burning ambition to enable a champion.

Like 20 Feet from Stardom, TitleShot is about the edges of fame. Godfrey’s friend says about him, “This guy is the future, right here. Gonna be the future.” But the film pairs the wish for stardom to a hard-scrabble immigrant story, the story of a guy who comes from nothing and works so hard he gets close enough to taste it. Godfrey’s struggle to win is a metaphorical version of every immigrant’s hope to make it in America. You need to work hard enough to show who you are and what you can do.

Like millions of others, Godfrey takes on the most basic and naked and noble human pursuit there is: to stand up and fight, so you can live. We hear Bobby Cassidy’s mantra as he trains Godfrey: “Keep your hands up.” It means, Don’t let them hit you. You drop your hands, you’re gonna get hit. Story of every immigrant’s life.

The title shot is the fight of Godfrey’s life. Literally.

We watch Godfrey rise to the title shot itself, training in Brooklyn’s world-famous Gleason’s gym, and find ourselves in a fighter’s world. We see cameos from famous fighters and trainers like “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Kevin Kelley, and Muhammad Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, and manager now boxing promoter Tom Loeffler -- but this is a real-world place of human struggle and endless work and physical pain, miles from the flash and the blaring promotion of bigtime sports. The cold-blooded business of boxing and money is juxtaposed against Godfrey’s physical courage and the tight emotional bond between Godfrey and Bobby.

It’s a roller-coaster story as Godfrey fights, loses, rises, and fights again. He’s the guy who coulda been a contendah, and then, surprisingly, finds that he is. But how good is his best shot – and what does it feel like to emerge from shadows into spotlight, and give all your strength and soul there? Can he come to the south Bronx and become, against the odds, the champion of the world? And still may not be good enough…..?

Boxing after all is the place where dreams go to die. No one ever gets out of the ring unbeaten, It's not just about triumph or failure, but life or death.

  • Gaylen Ross
    Director
    Killing Kasztner, Caris Peace, Dealers Among Dealers, Beijing Spring, Ximei et al.
  • Gaylen Ross
    Writer
    Killing Kasztner, Caris Peace, Dealers Among Dealers, Beijing Spring, Ximei, Blood Money: Switzerland's Nazi Gold, et al.
  • Eric Friedman
    Producer
  • Robert Richman
    Producer
  • Gaylen Ross
    Producer
    Killing Kasztner, Caris Peace, Dealers Among Dealers, Beijing Spring, Ximei et al.
  • Andrew Ford
    Producer
  • Robert Richman
    Director of Photography
    The Price of Everything, Paradise Lost, Metallica:Some Kind Of Monster, The September Issue, My Architect, et al
  • Paul Gibson
    Director of Photography
    Paris Is Burning, et al.
  • Godfrey Nyakana
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • "Irish" Bobby Cassidy
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • "Sugar Shane" Mosley
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Kevin Kelley
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Al Gavin
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Bruce Silverglade
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Bob Jackson
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Peter Kahn
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Tom Loeffler
    Key Cast
    "as himself"
  • Gaylen Ross
    Editor
    Killing Kasztner
  • Robert Cassidy
    Consultant
  • Bruce Silverglade
    Consultant
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Boxing, Sports, Documentary, Immigration
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 15, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    400,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Uganda, United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    16mm
  • Aspect Ratio:
    4:3
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Las Vegas Premiere Film Festival
    Las Vegas
    United States
    August 11, 2023
    World
    Official Selection
  • SPORT MOVIES & TV 2024 – MILANO INTERNATIONAL FICTS FEST
    Milan
    Italy
    November 7, 2023
    International
    Finalist
  • Paladino d'Oro Sport Film Festival
    Agrigento
    Italy
    November 20, 2023
    Best Sound Mix Winner. Nomination: Best Feature, Best Production, Best Sound Mix
Director Biography - Gaylen Ross

GAYLEN ROSS Director, Writer, Producer of documentary films for over 25 years, premiering in national and international film festivals. She has had two films previously in the Berlin International Film Festival: the Emmy award-winning "Blood Money: Switzerland’s Nazi Gold, " a feature-length documentary on the Swiss Banks and the Holocaust accounts, and the film she directed on diamond dealers" Dealers Among Dealers" aired on PBS’ P.O.V and is considered the only inside look into this very cloistered world. Among her films she directed, "Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis," was an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, broadcast BBC Storyville, shown in 11 countries and has enjoyed an unprecedented theatrical release in the US, Israel and France. It was named by the LA Times as one of the best documentary films of 2010. And as director, her film "Caris' Peace" about an actress who lost her memory premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival, won first place Athens Film Festival, Ohio; and presented as the featured film for the Rubin Museum of Art’s Brainwave series in New York. Most recently she co-directed with Andy Cohen two documentaries about China, "Beijing Spring," and "Ximei," also Executive Produced by Ai Weiwei, and in development on a documentary about the iconic Greenwich Village club, the Village Gate.

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Director Statement

TitleShot has been 20 years in the making telling both one young man's fight for a title and a remarkable overview of boxing past. This will be a world premiere for the film. It is submitted as a fine cut to be completed with post production (color/sound/graphics.)