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Shreveport fencing documentary cuts across bigger life lessons

Kate Archer Kent

An eccentric, outspoken New York fencing coach who married a Shreveporter and built a fencer’s mecca in Shreveport is the subject of a 65-minute documentary that premieres Friday at Robinson Film Center in Shreveport.

Filmmakers Michele and Jay Carter were skeptical when they learned about the Fairfield Avenue School of Fencing.

“We have this neighbor who comes to our door and says, You have got to meet this guy. We need to do a film about this guy because he has created this treasure in Shreveport that most people don’t know about,” Jay Carter said, during an interview at the fencing school located in an English Tudor-style building perched on the edge of Interstate 20.

When fencing guru Andy Shaw settled in Shreveport 13 years ago he found his way with saber extended, teaching fencing in schools and giving private lessons. As a teenager, he discovered his identity through the sport when he found a fencing idol at his club.

“We started bouting, and then we connected in a certain way and our fencing connected. I started to become more alive than ever before,” Shaw said, gesturing with his hands for emphasis. “Then, I’d leave that fencing club in Greenwich Village and go home and I’d go back to being normal.”

Shaw is anything but normal. He runs the American Fencing Museum out of his studio. Among the artfully arranged trophies and mementos he’s procured from fencing legends are 65 mannequins decked out in fencing attire worn by long ago Olympians. But it’s Shaw’s philosophy on life that the Carters embrace in their documentary “Southern Fried Fencing.”

In one restaurant scene, Shaw questions a server about her choice of words when she approaches his table and says, I’ll be taking care of y’all. Shaw quips, What do you mean taking care of me? Is this a nursing home or is it a restaurant?

This is the Carters’ first feature length documentary. Michele Carter says it’s much more than about a sport.

“There is something he says at the end: we can’t all be champions of the world. We have to be champions of ourselves. For some reason that really hit me and the way this whole film was and what’s important in life,” Carter said.

A Q-and-A with the Carters and Shaw is set for Friday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. The film will play through April 30 at Robinson Film Center.

It will screen at the Madrid International Film Festival in July. It screened at the Emerge Film Festival in Maine earlier this month.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.