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Film About Deaf Wrestler Winning Audiences

Film About Deaf Wrestler Winning Audiences

By Dan Bennett, North County Times

NVRC Note: “The Hammer” has been a favorite at film festivals across the country, often winning awards as an audience favorite. Many of the crew members involved were deaf, and actor Russell Harvard, who is deaf, plays the role of Matt Hamill in the film.

Having grown up both an athlete and a movie fan, Eben Kostbar knew when he heard the story of wrestler Matt Hamill that something cinematic was possible.

Kostbar, a producer, writer, director and sometime actor, had grown up inspired by underdog films such as "Rocky," "Rudy" and "Hoosiers." A former wrestler and fan of mixed martial-arts, Kostbar liked what he saw in Hamill's story. Here was an athlete who was deaf, and managed to overcome a low-income, high-risk background to find fame and success in sports.

Hamill is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling, and earned a silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling and a gold medal in freestyle wrestling from the 2001 Summer Deaflympics. Hamill was later a contestant on the third season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality television show.

The movie Kostbar co-produced and co-wrote on Hamill's life is called "The Hammer." The film is opening for short runs at dozens of theaters across the country today, including the Vista Village Metroplex 15 and UltraStar Cinemas Mission Marketplace 13 in Oceanside. It is directed by Oren Kaplan and co-written and produced by Joseph McKelheer.

"I heard Matt's story and thought, 'Wow, that's remarkable,'" Kostbar said in a telephone interview. "He's an inspiring guy. He was receptive to meeting and talking about making his story into a film, and it took off from there."

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