Besides pasty Canadians who make an annual pilgrimage to Puerto Vallarta or Cancun, Ian Hodgkinson is the most famous Canadian export to Mexico. Hodgkinson, better known as El Vampiro, is a household name in Mexico but still virtually unknown in Canada. Ottawa filmmaker Lee Demarbre is hoping to bring Hodgkinson’s story to a wider audience through the documentary Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero.
Demarbre never thought he would be the director of a documentary about a pro wrestler. “I never followed pro wrestling or was a big fan,” he recently confessed to SLAM! Wrestling. “However, I was a fan of Mexican cinema and the movies that featured the masked Mexican wrestler Santo. A couple of my previous movies even featured a Mexican wrestler as a character.”
Demarbre’s passion for Mexican cinema and a Canadian news program would eventually lead him to Ian Hodgkinson. “One night, I was watching a brief documentary about Ian as El Vampiro Mexican wrestling. I thought his story would make a good narrative film like Goodfellas along with the sex, drugs and gangsters. I convinced my producer that we should take a trip down to Anaheim, California, and meet up with Ian. He was doing a lucha libre show Anaheim so we hauled up and drove down to California.”
At first, Hodgkinson was underwhelmed with the idea of making a movie. “We found Ian in the wrestling ring in Anaheim. He probably listened to our pitch and did not tell us to go to hell because we were Canadian. Immediately, Ian doubted the idea because no actor could realistically portray his life in a movie. Also, he felt his life story was so out of this world that it would be difficult to believe as a movie.”
The movie project — The Dead Sleep Easy — also morphed into a documentary. “Ian told me about a European tour he was starting and invited me and a film crew to document his tour. We proceeded to travel across Europe as he wrestled venues from Ireland to Germany. I was surprised by the access we were given backstage. We were able to film the wrestlers choreographing their moves for the upcoming matches that night.”
Demarbre’s experience filming in Mexico would not be as low-key as Europe. “Ian is still a huge star in Mexico. We covered the launch of Ian trying to start up a new Mexican wrestling promotion Revolution X. He was holding his first event in Guadalajara on Mexican Independence Day. The documentary explores how Ian had to use every trick at his disposal in order to pull off the event.”
Many wrestling fans might wonder what would motivate Hodgkinson to participate in a documentary. Hodgkinson has a reputation for being difficult within the wrestling community. Demarbre offers a unique perspective. “Basically, I think Ian agreed to this as a love note to his daughter, Dasha. He doesn’t seem to care much about the fame with El Vampiro. I think he could leave all that tomorrow. The most important thing in his life right now is his relationship with his daughter.”
Demarbre recently held the documentary premiere at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa. The audience was not typical of the crowd you would find at most indy shows on a Saturday night. After viewing the documentary it was obvious that Demarbre had achieved his goal in making a documentary that would appeal to a broader audience beyond just hardcore wrestling fans. The documentary provided a very good overview of Hodgkinson’s life ranging from growing up in Thunder Bay to his emergence as a megastar in Mexico. Hodgkinson comes across as a guy who has had to deal with a screwed up past but is making the best out of his current situation.
Since wrapping up filming of the documentary, Hodgkinson has been enjoying a career renaissance in Mexico. He is back wrestling with AAA wrestling and is a main headliner. On a somewhat bizarre note, he is also trying to establish a chapter of the Guardian Angels in crime-ridden Mexico City.
Wrestling and non-wrestling fans can check out more about the documentary at www.vampiromovie.com Also, watch for the documentary to come out on DVD. The subject matter would lend itself to many fascinating bonus features and extra footage.