Nominee: Best Spiritual Documentary of 2005
Eschewing the tired clichés about the dignity of suffering, this Oscar-nominated documentary about the lives of paraplegic athletes is refreshingly devoid of mawkishness. The men of this film, devotees all of a brutal, no-holds-barred sport known as wheelchair rugby (or murderball), are no plaster saints; their lovingly detailed descriptions of their pre- and post-injury debauches are enough to make the less hardy among us blush, or blanch. And yet, the athletes, damaged of body, choose to be true to themselves, finding a means of tailoring sport to their now-limited physical capacities.
Directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro tell these athletes' stories simply and forthrightly, unstintingly providing the details of their pasts, their accidents, and their daily lives, leaving out little. To some, this may be too much information on an already-disquieting topic, but "Murderball" refuses to turn away, refuses to take a complex, multi-faceted story and turn it into a Hallmark card.
These men are men like any other, and in acknowledging their limitations, both physical and inter-personal, "Murderball" gives them the dignity of seeing their whole selves onscreen. In rejecting the neutering sympathy of the full of body, in making the most of the limited physical resources left to them, the murderballers are quietly, irrevocably moving.
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