Girl Wrestler

A film by Diane Zander

2004 | 53 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 05857 |


GIRL WRESTLER follows 13-year-old Tara Neal, a Texas teenager who upsets traditional expectations by insisting that girls and boys should be able to wrestle on the same mat. Zander follows Tara through a crucial period in her wrestling career—the last year that she is allowed to wrestle boys under state guidelines. When Tara enters high school, her opportunities to compete will virtually disappear because so few girls wrestle. Over the course of the season, she deals with family conflicts, pressures to cut weight and fierce policy debates over Title IX.

Tara represents a modern kind of girlhood, one that physically embodies feminism by literally placing girls into grappling competition with boys. This eye-opening film shows us how the gender roles we have constructed affect real adolescents as they crash against the boundaries of those norms. Ultimately, Tara’s story is a direct and immediate chronicle of such broader cultural issues as the social construction of masculinity and femininity, athleticism and eating disorders, gender discrimination in organized athletics, and the meaning and value of sport in American culture.


“An empathetic and subtle portrait of a teenaged girl’s athletic passion.”

David Fellerath indiewire

“This film is very closely aligned with our organizational values and mission. It raises extremely important issues for today’s girls. Thanks to Diane Zander, the cause for women’s sports will be advanced one step further.”

Girls Inc.

“The great strength of Girl Wrestler is the way that it bridges a more abstract feminist film theory and practical and political and social issues such as Title IX and eating disorders. The issues it raises are wide ranging and the film is well-suited to several venues including educational institutions…public television and screenings at public libraries.”

Karla Oeler Emory University

Recommended...illustrate[s] the barriers that continue to exist for young women in sports in the United States...Will keep the interest of junior high athletes…[with] the potential to create empathy among male athletes for their female counterparts. “

Educational Media Reviews Online

“Entertaining and thought-provoking… a model for independent documentary filmmaking in media departments, as well as in classes that focus on issues of gender, health, teen development, and history.”

Sharon Ross Columbia College, Chicago

“A must-see for courses in sociology, women’s studies, and sport studies.”

Leslie Heywood Author of “Pretty Good for a Girl”

“A marvelous portrait of determined, and very intelligent, young lady trying to overcome society’s roadblocks.”

Philadelphia Inquirer


  • Go Girls! at Symphony Space
  • Dallas Video Festival
  • Athens International Film and Video Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • South by Southwest Film Festival
  • Northampton Independent Film Festival
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
  • Memphis International Film Festival
  • LadyFest East Film Festival
  • Frameline - San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival


Diane Zander

An Emmy award winner for her work on the documentary Moving Stories from WTTW TV (PBS) Chicago, Diane Zander is currently pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Film and Video Production at the University of Texas at Austin under a continuing fellowship. A summa cum laude graduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), she studied Radio Television Film with a minor in art history.

The majority of her documentary and experimental work deals with gender issues and how female identities and femininities are constructed and complicated. Her film and video work has been shown both at festivals across the country, including Women in the Directors' Chair in Chicago, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, the Dallas Video Festival, and the Culture Under Fire Festival in Kansas City. Her work has also appeared on Image Union, a PBS showcase in Chicago for independent film and video. She has been invited to show her work and speak about feminist documentary practice at international academic conferences such as the Visible Evidence Conference on Documentary and Consoling Passions Conference for Television, Video, and Feminism, and the National Feminist Graduate Student Conference. She has received grants for her work from the Texas Council for the Humanities, the Austin Film Society's Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, the Dallas Chapter of Women in Film, and the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Visual Arts. As a media educator, she teaches production skills to children, teenagers, and college students.

She has worked professionally as an associate producer, writer, and editor for WTTW TV (PBS) Chicago on the Emmy award winning documentary Moving Stories; as a video journalist for CNN Headline News; as a producer and production assistant on Weeknight Edition at KURT TV (PBS) Houston; as a research assistant for CNN Presents; as an editing engineer for Northwestern University Media Services; as a production assistant for Kartemquin Films on Hoop Dreams Reunion; and as a production assistant for Artbeat Chicago, Record Row: Cradle of Rhythm and Blues, and Image Union, all at WTTW TV (PBS) Chicago. (8/14)


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