Pain Is Temporary, Pride Is Forever (2010)

"Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever is an amazing journey, a fantastic film and one of the very best documentaries I’ve seen in years. What a privilege it was to have that experience."


Award winning Australian director Josh Lee (A Dollar for the Good Ones) does what most documentarians have seemingly forgotten how to do: he presents a very personal film with an objective and unflinching eye. Rooted in a love of Cambodia and the people there, and further spurred by volunteer time in the country, Lee found the experiences had

strengthened my bond with the country, and cultivated a desire to develop a documentary project with a Cambodian backdrop. The next step was to find a topic that was both achievable and resonant with my interests.

That subject soon presented itself in the form of his brother Nick Tower. A budding kickboxer, Tower had competed once before in Cambodia and won. Now years later, in a bid to salvage his own life, Tower would devote himself completely to the sport leaving his hell-raising and hard drinking lifestyle behind.

    Nick Tower trains for his fight in Cambodia.

Nick Tower trains for his fight in Cambodia.

When I watched the film I purposely did not read any of the advance material before hand, nor any of the credits. I experienced the film raw, without any knowledge the director or his subject knew each other. It is a testament to both men that the finished film plays so unbiased, starkly showing Tower battling his demons, and for the most part succumbing to them. At first you don’t know if you like or understand Tower, but Lee deftly weaves together a texture of conflicting personalities with footage of his brother sober and intoxicated. It is a masterful touch, constantly walking a tightrope, and knowing just when to offer up the counterpoint. It illustrates a man at war with himself without adding bias or opinion, something that must be applauded.


Everything about the film belies its origins. Here Lee demonstrates a breadth of ability far exceeding his age; everything from the pace of the film, to the use of counterpoints at perfect junctures is so far advanced that you expect a seasoned veteran, not someone in the twenties. The brandishing of the term wunderkind is something quite apt when discussing Lee. The setting of Cambodia is masterful, as is the stunningly beautiful camerawork (again Lee) which captures both the colour and texture of the country and adds a wonderful subtext to Tower’s journey. It is a perfect backdrop for a man battling back from a world he feels alienated from; in Cambodia Tower is the alien and yet feels more at home. The sound is also brilliant; each scene is crystal clear and layered with sounds of street music, traffic and the rich culture. It also possesses one of the best endings to a documentary I have seen in years, and fitting conclusion to a wonderful journey.


Nick Tower kicking with coach.

Lee has crafted a remarkable film. Its lean 54 minute running time could have easily been longer, but it is such an accomplished piece that you’re left wanting more. From the opening moments to the closing credits it is a challenging, uplifting and richly textured journey. Tower’s story is so pragmatically universal that it teaches us about ourselves and rewards the viewer with inspiration and joy. It is as if both men inherently knew the truth of what John Grierson once said of the genre:

The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation which is profound.

Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever is an amazing journey, a fantastic film and one of the very best documentaries I’ve seen in years. What a privilege it was to have that experience.

-Vance Garrett