Art Institute prof’s women’s wrestling doc bows at CIFF before Feb theatrical release

Ruth Leitman’s feature documentary, “Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling,” is one of four Chicago-made features that will premiere during the Oct. 7-21 Chicago International Film Festival.

Koch-Lorber picked up North American rights excluding premium cable for “Lipstick & Dynamite” after its U.S. debut at the Tribeca Film Festival last May.

The company is blowing the picture up to 35mm for a 30-50 city theatrical release next February, said Leitman, a School of the Art Institute professor.

“Lipstick & Dynamite” combines archival footage and contemporary interviews of six “girl wrestlers” who worked the carnival circuit in the 40’s and 50’s. Two of the featured women, now both 81, are still active in professional wrestling today.

“These young teen girls were out on their own on the road trying to get out of these difficult home lives, and their bodies and their athletic strength were their way out,” Leitman said. “They don’t really view themselves as having pioneered the world of feminism, but I feel like they did.”

Leitman and producing partner James Jernigan self-financed the film, which Leitman shot on DV between 2001 and 2003. Leitman and Jernigan also collaborated on the 2001 feature doc “Welcome to Anatevka.”

“Lipstick & Dynamite” director Ruth Leitman

Leitman started her career as a music photographer in Atlanta. Her debut doc was “Wildwood, New Jersey” (1994) followed by “Alma” (1997). She’s now shopping the screenplay “The Pin-Down Girl,” a girl wrestling story set in the ?50s.

“Lipstick & Dynamite” is Koch-Lorber’s second theatrical release, after Lars von Trier’s “The Five Obstructions,” the Danish Oscar entry, now playing at the Music Box Theatre. “It’s me and Lars ? I’m in really good company,” said Leitman.

London-based Movie House Entertainment, which represents Nick Broomfield (“Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer”), has signed on as foreign sales agent.

“Lipstick & Dynamite” screens Oct. 10 at 8:15 p.m. and Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at AMC River East theatre. Leitman speaks on the panel “Illinois’ Own: Making it in the Midwest,” Oct. 10 at 11 a.m. at Border’s, 2817 N. Clark St.

Reach Leitman at or see

? by Ed M. Koziarski,