Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Murderball (Directors: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro)

MURDERBALL has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature

This is the first big feature or documentary that Rubin and Shapiro have directed.

One of the hit documentaries of the summer--2005 is beginning to feel a lot like 2003 with the popular unscripted entertainment. This one concerns quadriplegics who play wheelchair rugby, and gives America another reason to hate Canada.

We begin with the wheelchair rugby championships in Sweden, where the USA asserts their dominance, led by tough-as-nails Mark Zupan, another inspiring Austin, Texas product who became a "quad" when his buddy drunkenly drove his truck not knowing Zupan was in the back sleeping off his own drunkeness. An accident occurred, and Zupan was thrown into a river, where he held onto a branch for 14 hours before being saved. The American team looks to have stiff competition from Canada, a team coached by the recently-spurned U.S. veteran has-been Joe Soares. I would like to discuss why we need to villainize Soares, considering that life has already been unkind to the man, and the painting of him as a traitor. "How does it feel to be a traitor to your own country?" one of his own players asks some time after Canada beats the U.S.

OK, maybe that's unfair, because they do give Soares a chance to be more than Benedict Arnold. But his changing allegiances clearly pit him against the U.S. and the movie's hero Zupan. After the championships, the documentary covers the lives of the players and how yes, they can drive! Yes, they can live somewhat normal lives! They can even fuck! All of that slowly builds closer and closer to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, where another U.S./Canada match awaits.

This is one of those kinds of documentaries that are popular for a reason--it's a sort of feel-good story, with amazing accomplishments. But there is a little bit of meat missing from this. There's a revelation towards the end about Soares that isn't really explained. A young man who has recently become a quad enters the story and sort of vanishes. Some wicked-cool coverage of the sport becomes rather blah. Don't get me wrong; the movie will entertain you, especially when these guys talk--they're assholes like any other jocks. And their stories are worth covering. But it's upended a little by what it doesn't show you. Good doc. Worth watching.


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