Autumn 2005 Documentary series
Monday, November 21, 2005 at 7:00pm
Rated NR ·
Winner of the Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, Murderball follows the journey of the American quadriplegic rugby team to the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece, focusing specific attention on their heated rivalry with Team Canada.
Murderball, aptly named by its Canadian inventors, is a full contact sport played on a basketball court by quadriplegic athletes in armoured wheelchairs reminiscent of Mad Max vehicles. Wearing no helmets or pads, players are routinely knocked over by the opposing team’s defence. Needless to say, this sport isn’t for the weak of heart; these players are as tough and driven as any high-level able-bodied athlete.
The documentary focuses on three individuals: Joe Soares, a former Team USA champion who was cut from the team and took his anger north to become the coach of Team Canada; Mark Zupan, an intimidating Team USA star player who unreservedly labels Joe a traitor; and Keith Cavill, a young man coming to terms with his quadriplegia after a recent dirtbike accident. The thrill of watching the men compete is balanced by the personal stories of their determination to not only live full lives but also succeed as exceptional athletes. We learn that Zupan’s accident was the result of his best friend crashing his truck. Having had little contact since the accident, the two are reunited with astounding results. Soares’s intense, singleminded drive to succeed on the court conflicts with his ten-year-old son’s talent for the violin. Suffering from a heart attack during the filming, Soares begins to mellow and appreciate his son’s artistic pursuits. Cavill’s encounter with Zupan is perhaps the film’s most poignant moment as the young man realizes that life still has many exciting challenges to offer.
A fascinating sports film, Murderball goes beyond the court to reveal an intimate look at the personalities of these remarkable athletes. Co-directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro break down any misconceptions, ignorance or pity about quadriplegics by filming the daily activities of their athletic and personal lives. By letting these men speak frankly about their accidents and eventual triumph over their disabilities, inspiration and hope becomes the ultimate message of this exceptional film.