Niko von Glasow’s profile of Paralympic athletes debuted at Berlin in 2013. Other fest screenings included Thessaloniki Doc, DocPoint, DOK.fest Munich, and Montreal World, while its US broadcast debut was on POV.
Disabled himself – born with foreshortened arms due to prenatal thalidomide exposure – von Glasow makes himself a major part of his film, appearing on camera in interviews with the 2012 London-bound athletes he interviews, à la Michael Moore. He also borrows that documentarian’s approach as a provocateur, bluntly beginning the film by telling Greg, a Greek boccia player with muscular dystrophy, that he hates sports and that the Paralympics are a terrible idea that merely reinforce the disabled’s inability to fit into mainstream society. Ostensibly using his own film to prove himself wrong while actually aiming to change similarly skeptical audience expectations, the somewhat irksome von Glasow visits with several parathletes – including an archer with the same shortened arms condition – to find out why they compete. But, in actuality, the filmmaker often seems far less interested in his subjects as sportsmen and women and more curious about their lives as a whole, peppering interviews with existential questions about mortality or personal biographical queries about loneliness or companionship. While lending a meandering sense to the proceedings – not at all aided by occasional bits of indulgence where von Glasow himself ineptly tries out various sports to not-so-subtly suggest how accomplished his interviewees are – these discussions do succeed in providing a rounder sense of his subjects, not just as people with disabilities, but as people, period.