Sasha Parulis didn’t go looking to create a documentary; instead the project seemed to find her.
While on vacation in Hawaii, Sasha recognized Sonny Westbrook (pictured with Sasha, above) as a boxing coach and cast member of the television reality series, “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” She introduced herself and as they communicated over the next few months, she became more intrigued with his mentoring relationship with the kids at his gym, The Kona Boxing Club in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She began to believe his story would make a great documentary.
I interviewed Sasha recently about her undertaking.
No, she’s not a boxer. And yet she found, as she learned more of the story that the Kona Boxing Club has to tell, that boxing incorporates many things she is passionate about. Like the heart, dedication and the determination of the fighters.
“I also love what the sport and boxing coaches do for kids. Any kid, in any neighborhood, in any country, can walk into a local boxing gym and transform his or her life. Their attitude and life direction can take a complete turn.”
Below you can take a look at some of her rough footage. It’s nothing like what you would see in a finished documentary, more like a few snapshots of the people and the place that have captured her imagination and her heart…
In Hawaii, ‘ohana means family. Parulis hopes her film will draw more young people, particularly at-risk youth, into neighborhood boxing gyms, where they can find mentors and a community of support — not just boxing support, but life direction. An ‘ohana of sorts.
And gentle giant Sonny Westbrook makes a compelling draw. A Samoan native, and one of eleven siblings who emigrated with the family to Hawaii, Sonny is part of a strong boxing heritage. His father, a South Seas heavyweight champion, once boxed for a bag of groceries to feed his family. Sonny and nine of his brothers have also followed their father into the sport.
Sonny started boxing at age 8 and went on to compete in 4 national Golden Glove championships, traveling all over the world with his sport. He has gone on to train hundreds of fighters, including Kona native and former MMA EliteXC Lightweight World Champion and professional boxer, KJ Noons.
But it’s in the gym every day, working with the young people of the island, that Sonny really shines. He is a “father” on Kona, helping his young fighters face and triumph over the challenges of family hardships, gang-related activities, and the widespread methamphetamine use that is tearing so many Hawaiian communities apart.
“It is my hope for the film A Boxing ‘Ohana to be screened as an educational outreach tool for in-school and after-school programs, community organizations, drug rehab programs and/or juvenile halls, giving it an educational goal beyond just a screening,” Parulis notes.
With the film currently in developmental stages, she’s staying busy.
She is also in the process of partnering up with the Bronx-based non-profit, Youth Survival Project. In fact, she’s been hard at work encouraging everyone she encounters to support the film by joining A Boxing ‘Ohana’s Facebook page and Twitter account. You can read more about the project on A Boxing ‘Ohana’s website as well.