Incredibly Moving & Inspirational
Rising Phoenix is an emotionally stirring, incredibly inspirational documentary. It’s no surprise then that Netflix’s latest sport film has been released around the time the Tokyo games would have taken place. For obvious reasons these aren’t going ahead now but this does whet the appetite for the athletic season.
Across the 100 minute run-time, the film traces the origins of the Paralympic games back to the incredible Sir Ludwig Guttmann. This acts as the glue that holds everything together as the rest of the film builds up three main Paralympic pillars which are explored in more detail. London 2012, Rio 2020 and Beijing 2016 (in that order). Along the way we meet some of the inspirational faces across a wide range of sports including swimming, sprinting and fencing.
The result is something that’s incredibly moving and more than a little emotional at times. Understanding the struggles and history of these athletes really brings home the gravity of the wins (or losses) they find themselves experiencing. All of this is captured beautifully from some archival home videos, pictures and strikingly honest face to face interviews.
If there’s one avenue the film could have been improved though it comes from the editing. The movie swings all over the place between the past and the present. Sometimes it is a little distracting and I can’t help but feel a more linear approach may have been the way to go. Understanding the origins of the sport first and then celebrating the games would have given so much more weight to what Ludwig has done for this sport.
Still, it’s a minor gripe in what’s otherwise a really absorbing and engrossing documentary. Some of the athletes have some pretty harrowing stories to tell and despite all the adversity, the Rio games are yet another example of how there’s still work to be done to change archaic attitudes.
Thankfully, Rising Phoenix is a step in the right direction. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this film is a reminder of how extraordinary Paralympian athletes actually are and how they’re easily level-pegging if not better than some of the top athletes in the world. Despite some editing issues, this documentary is well worth watching and certainly falls into the realm of essential viewing.