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Documentary of the Day – Murderball

Posted on the 14 February 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

This is what a sports documentary is all about.  Not the standard, traditional sports film about some down and out team or the singular focus on one great sports figure.  Murderball was a surprising documentary when I first saw it years back that had a compelling human interest side, but never really looked down on the subjects.  Even though the wheelchair rugby players are confined to their disabilities for life, it’s not a story about how their disability has taken their life away from them, but rather how it has given them the motivation and drive to do something more.

Documentary of the Day – Murderball

In 2004, filmmaker Henry Alex Rubin and journalist Dana Adam Shapiro followed both teams (American and Canadian rivals) as they traveled to Athens, Greece, for the 2004 Paralympics, documenting the fierce competition between the two teams (especially the Americans, bitterly stung by what they saw as Soares’ betrayal). Murderball offers an up-close look at the 2004 Wheelchair Rugby tournament, as well as the personal stories of the athletes who are passionate, driven, and determined to win — as one of them says, “I’m not here for a hug, I’m here for a medal.” source moviefone

I think that there was an opportunity for this documentary to be completely different than it turned out to be.  When dealing with disabilities and the people affected by them, there is a tendency to be a bit more coddling with them.  We you meet someone with a disability, you sort of revert to a nurturing stance and kind of talk down to them.  The documentary doesn’t do that at all.  Rubin and Shapiro approach the subject with an open mind and no objectivity that would make the documentary seem a bit more of a somber look on the people who play wheelchair rugby.  They are people, like you and me, who have a story about how they ended up in their condition.  When they tell their story, it isn’t with remorse or sadness, but kind of a reverence that indicates to them that they made something out of the predicament.

Documentary of the Day – Murderball

The human aspect of the documentary is what makes this such a compelling and touching documentary.  You learn a little about the individuals that make up the teams and how they got to the place they are at currently.  They never want you to feel sorry for them or even think of them as being broken, in fact seeing them out there giving it their all with the tenacity of a football player is stunning.  The only thing you share with them is the heartache and excitement that comes with watching them play Murderball.  It’s like watching chariots in the gladiatorial arena just slam into one another, inflicting damage and reveling in their accomplishments.  The sports aspect of the documentary is phenomenal, almost enough to get you take part in the competition, able bodied or not.

What makes this such an amazing documentary is that there is a human interest story that propels the story and the sport that they partake in.  You witness dozens of teams that are made up of paralyzed individuals and realize that they are still strong individuals that can basically kick your ass on and off the court.  For them, this is their life and they put everything they have into it.  So not only are you getting humanistic film, but also a sports film that deals with perseverance and belonging to a team.  They all share something in common, which might be the obvious handicap, but it is really the love of the continuing on with their lives even after their accident.  It’s not a sad film about the halting of life, it’s a film about continuing on with your life and reaching goal, with or without hindrance.

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