This week on Fandor: Athletics for the Rest of Us, the “Real” Rio, the Bourne Evolution and More!
The Opening Ceremonies are over and the events are underway: Rio 2016 is upon us! No doubt, you’ve heard at least a little murmuring about how the Games’ presence in Brazil has affected its citizens (often, the ones with the least access to resources and representation), but what is Rio de Janeiro life really like? For answers, we’re taking a trip to Rio through the stories of struggle, resilience, talent and victory — of ordinary people with extraordinary passion, ability, and drive — found in these incredible documentaries:
- While most of us might wish we could get TO Rio for this year’s pageantry and pomp, the subjects of Only When I Dance are trying desperately to get OUT of the favelas, or slums, where they struggle against the powerful vortex of poverty, crime and violence that threatens to drag them under. Classical ballet is their ticket, but their only chance to cash it in lies in the international competitions that lead to international opportunities. If you want to know what becomes of these rising stars, you’ll just have to watch. Apologies to our Canadian viewers! Currently this film is only available in the United States, but we wholeheartedly recommend its no-less-impactful scripted counterpart, Rânia (pictured in this week’s featured image).
- In Sunday Ball, we return to the favelas for an immersive experience of “football” (the kind the rest of the world is into, not the kind with helmets) played by teams of teens at the top of their game. If you’re as sick of incessant Olympic commentating as we are, this refreshingly non-narrated doc just might be the antidote you’re looking for. But this isn’t just the equivalent of Brazilian ESPN! Jay Weissberg of Variety calls it perfectly: “Labeling Eryk Rocha’s terrific Sunday Ball a sports documentary, because it focuses on soccer, is like calling Grey Gardens a madwomen documentary for featuring a couple of loonies.”
- For a more historical view of Rio life, Jos de Putter‘s fascinating double-header documentaries Solo: The Law of the Favela and Solo: Out of a Dream (which is currently only available in the United States) will show you how much things change (or don’t) in twenty years. Slum life makes you grow up fast, but even Leonardo, de Putter’s football-star subject, seems far too young for the choices he must face. Those choices ultimately lead him out of the country and into a life playing at the professional level internationally, but when he returns home after two decades away, he must wrestle with the implications of his escape.
- Finally, the raw immediacy of O parto takes us from the din of mass protest that consumed Rio’s streets in 2013 to a crisis of reproductive choice in a Rio hospital, all in just thirteen minutes. When a filmmaker goes into labor and realizes the doctors will force her to give birth by Caesarian section (a fate faced by nearly 90% of the country’s mothers), she continues to keep the camera rolling. You won’t be able to look away from her indictment of Brazilian bureaucracy.
Once you’ve gotten to know Rio through the eyes of its inhabitants, you may be revved up and ready to root, if only to take your mind off of the danger, corruption, and pathos depicted in these portals to a troubled city. There are two new medals to be won in this year’s summer games: golf and rugby. But what about all of the events that DIDN’T make it to the Olympic Games, and never will, and never would? For those who aren’t swayed by the typical feats of strength, speed, and stamina, our newest Spotlight collection is chock full of flicks that feature normal(ish) people engaged in truly extraordinary competitions. From bake-offs to pigeon racing, you won’t believe what a great compendium of cool and kooky contests we’ve put together — and who you’ll be cheering on!
Is your adrenaline pumping? Keep the feeling going with this most excellent video essay about action sequences in the Bourne trilogy. Details matter, people! Even when the limbs (and sometimes the body fluids) are flying. Kevin B. Lee cuts through the chaos to break down how filmed combat has changed since 2002’s The Bourne Identity.
With that, we’ll return you to your regularly-scheduled Olympics watching…at least, until next week, when we’ll be back with more ways to distract you. What can we say? We’re going for the gold medal in streaming video on demand. Visit Fandor.com to see if we are worthy of the podium, and happy watching!