Courtesy of the Sundance Institute
Coss Marte spent his six years in prison preparing for life on the outside, even when he didn’t realize it. When Marte’s sentence began, he was heavy-set with life-threatening cholesterol issues. In jail, men tended to work out a lot. Older guys would pass the time by teaching their younger counterparts exercise routines in exchange for commissary goods. If incarceration was going to jeopardize Marte’s future, he decided he wouldn’t let his health do the same.
Marte, a former drug dealer, came out looking like Adonis, fit, handsome, and determined to build a better reality for himself. With relentless hustle, he launched a fitness studio in downtown New York City, near the same spot where he was arrested. Conbody, as it’s called, hires former inmates as trainers, making it a sort of reentry program that helps employees stay on their feet. The classes offered are the opposite of the clubby gyms meant to lure upscale clients in big cities: no deluxe equipment or smoothie bars—just your own body and a friendly instructor coaching you through circuit training. In 2017, after Marte spoke at an entrepreneur convention, Conbody signed a high-profile deal with a Saks Fifth Avenue initiative that sold wellness resources.
The story of Marte and the other rehabilitated Conbody trainers are the core of a six-part docuseries that premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival. Conbody VS Everybody is a moving, and often quite charming, look at individuals who refuse to let their criminal records brand them with a scarlet letter. The series has A-list credentials, too: Debra Granik, the Oscar-nominated director of Winter’s Bone (the movie that launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career) and Leave No Trace, directed it.