Opening 17 Oct 2013
Director Niko von Glasow thinks sports suck, the Paralympics are stupid, and the German saying “Sport ist Mord” (sport kills) makes sense. Interesting then, that he chooses to document athletes as they prepare for, and participate in London’s 2012 Paralympics Games. A swimmer with one leg, an archer with no arms, volleyball players missing legs, a wheelchair-bound boccia player, and a table-tennis player with half an arm. Niko personably probes their enthusiasm for sports: Greg (Greek), Matt (American), Christiane (German), Aida (Norwegian), and Rwanda’s team. Of the two adoptee, the war orphan reasons that having a sport promotes forward thinking, while the one who was “left behind” says, “I feel like I’m happy… who doesn’t want to be the best?” Two athletes are crippled by disease – spinal muscular atrophy, cancer – yet they have positive outlooks, and one places while the other takes home a gold. Civil war stole limbs, yet created ambassadors.
All the protagonists and their families are genial, unflinchingly direct when talking about the disabilities and with a sense of humor. When Niko prods Rwandan players about the Tutsi and Hutus, instead they want to investigate his armless hands (a side effect of his mother taking Contergan/Thalidomide when pregnant in 1960). Hajo Schomerus’s camerawork is very good, as is the music; Mechthild Barth and Bernhard Reddig’s editing meld the two most spectacularly when the athletes are competing. Optimistically presented, all the central characters are easygoing, and the majority speaks English, with German subtitles. By the end of this documentary, when Niko and Greg visit Olympia, it is hard not to contrast these stoic athletes with societies handicapped-physically fit. (Marinell Haegelin)