Murderball is a docu-film, charting the rise and rise of Wheelchair Rugby, a Paralympic sport. The documentary follows the US and Canadian teams in their fierce fight for the coveted gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Several dominant personalities carry the film through: Joe Soares is a former US team superstar and present Canadian team coach; his passion for the game is almost overwhelming. The film explores a little of the relationship with his son, (who is portrayed as a bespectacled overweight drip) and his emotional coldness towards his own flesh and blood that he cannot seem to relate to.
Mark Zupan is the young face of the team, promoting Wheelchair Rugby both to newly-injured young men and at press conferences alike. His charisma noticeably affects those around him, especially one young man in particular, who injured his back in a motorcycle accident - we can see the boyish delight in his eyes as Zupan permits him to have a test-drive of his customised titanium wheelchair.
The film examines the player's approach to their injury, and the opinions held between those who were abruptly injured in the course of their everyday lives, and those who were born with quadriplegia. It also examines blame and responsibility, talking to the driver in an accident that paralysed another of the players.
In short, we learn that these men are no different to any other; they have the same desires and needs, which in many cases are fulfilled in their entirety by the sport. It provides a macho, masculine persona. It is a form of exercise, that especially strengthens the upper body. It allows for a 'boy-racer' mentality with the customisation of wheelchairs. It also provides female interest - those featured in the film seem fascinated by the players - yet also an intrinsic support network for individuals in similar situations.
This film deals with highly charged emotion, both a sense of loss and despair, as well as passion, commitment and unity. It changed my preconceptions about spinal injuries, and gave me insight into networks available for people with life-changing injury or illness. Thoroughly recommended.