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Derek Drescher, Coss Marte and Syretta Wright of Conbody (Photo by Micheal Hurcomb/Shutterstock)

The Cast and Crew of “Conbody VS Everybody” Have Each Other’s Backs for Life

Derek Drescher, Coss Marte & Syretta Wright have each other’s backs. (Micheal Hurcomb/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

By Veronika Lee Claghorn

“We are not a fake movement. We want to help people,” says Syretta Wright at the January 23 premiere of episodic series Conbody VS Everybody at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. “Coss [Marte] leads by example every day. It makes it hard on us not to follow suit.” 

Marte, the Dominican American former inmate who developed a fitness program in New York City’s Lower East Side, is the subject of Debra Granik’s new series. Over the course of eight years, Wright and her film crew documented the life of Marte as he attempted to develop a unique fitness studio with a unique premise: hiring former inmates to train those “on the outside” simply using body weight moves. 

Prior to incarceration, Marte had sold drugs like a Wharton grad, claiming by the age of 19 he was making over $2 million per year. However, by age 23, he found himself behind bars and suffering from obesity. Jailhouse doctors warned him he was in for a death sentence of his own doing, and so the young inmate worked hard from the inside and lost 70 pounds by body weight exercises alone.

Marte talks frequently about second chances, and Wright is a prime example of what the gym owner and program creator believes anti-recidivism can do. Now hailed as “The First Lady of Conbody,” Wright had served 22 years in women’s prison and turned her life around on the outside when Marte’s gym gave her the opportunity to show off what she learned on the inside.

As Granik brings the members of Conbody to the Sundance stage, the crowd stands up and cheers for the successful trainers — in just two episodes, one can see that these are changed individuals who genuinely care about each other and those who support their mission. Granik praises Marte for somehow singlehandedly unifying what amounts to every documentarian’s dream: “fascinatingly beautiful complex people.” 

Marte claims to be shy but appears unafraid to face the Sundance crowd and work his natural charm with all those around him. Of the 10 years the film team followed him, Marte says, “I was just in a constant place of asking myself how to move forward.” Immediately, folks on stage with him acknowledge they never saw Marte drop the ball. “You were priming yourself and [figuring it out] every single day,” says Granik to Marte. To the audience, she says, “Coss became a savior and [acted as a] savior every month.

“Human beings who are intent on improving their lives move at very high speed, which makes it hard to be a documentarian,” she adds, suggesting that the pace in which Marte and his team set to improve their lives could be a challenge to keep up with. She lauds the editor, Tory Stewart, for singlehandedly weaving the narrative of the series’ subjects in such a cohesive way.

While Marte shines upon the stage, his colleagues do, as well. The aforementioned Wright is now working with incarcerated youth, and his close friend, Derek Drescher, is working in drug counseling and performing stand-up comedy in the New York area. If one thing is apparent, it’s that every person on the stage, including the camera crew, has each other’s backs for life.

Watch Conbody VS Everybody and more from the comfort of your own home here