These are testing times for the world. The Coronavirus outbreak has wreaked havoc in most the countries and life has come to a standstill. Sports, inevitably, has taken a hit and there's absolutely nothing in terms of live games. Fact also remains that sports is not the most important thing right now considering we are dealing with a pandemic.
For millions of sports fans, live matches, be it related to their favourite teams or athletes, provided a release. For some, it was a stress-buster and for others, it led to stress. Either way, sports kept fans engaged. Now people have to mostly make do by watching the highlights and wait for things to get back to normal. If the wait is proving to be too much to take and watching the highlights is not doing the trick, there's another interesting option.
Here, after suggesting you some excellent sports books to read during lockdown, we are listing a range of sports documentaries that could be your fix in these tough times. The writers from the Firstpost sports desk have picked their favourites, which they think are worth your time. Happy viewing!
Free Solo (Directed by Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) - Available on Hotstar
Free Solo, the Academy Award-winning documentary on Alex Honnold, who wants to become the first-ever free solo climber of famed El Capitan's 900-metre vertical rock face, is a mountainous effort in both art and sport. The 140-minute documentary is slickly cut, and captures bits of Honnold's life before he went on to do the unimaginable.
While the documentary is a celebration of Honnold's phenomenal achievement, its objective is not merely limited to that. It details into Honnold's perspective on life and death and everything that is in between, including his family and girlfriend.
It is also a brave piece of filmmaking from directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and their crew as they also become a part of this helluva journey.
As the world today stands at a very difficult time, where one bad mistake can lead to many lives being lost, Free Solo provides fine perspective in that regard as well.
Senna (Directed by Asif Kapadia)
You would become an Ayrton Senna fan without even following him during his active years. Such is the charisma of the man, or at least that's how it hits you when you read about it. Senna, a three-time Formula One racing champion, died in an accident doing what he loved the most, while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. But he still continues to rule the minds of Formula One fans and more, thanks to this Asif Kapadia's documentary on the great man — Senna.
The documentary is not an enactment but a rerun of archival footage take from Formula One and Senna's family, some of which were shown for the first time. The focus is mainly on his 10 years as Formula One driver when he becomes an idol in his country Brazil and a superstar worldwide thanks to his charm. The brilliant editing and storytelling creates a major impact while the ending, the footage of the accident, will leave you in tears.
Icarus (Directed by Bryan Fogel) - Available on Netflix
This insane documentary by Bryan Fogel starts off innocuously ― with the American director setting out to find someone who could help him dope so that he could win an amateur cycling race and prove how easy it is to fool the system.
Much to his shock, he finds himself knee-deep in the midst of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.
Fogel’s tryst with doping sees him introduced to Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, who, back in 2014, is the director of Moscow’s anti-doping lab. Things unravel quickly, with the Russian being implicated in a WADA report of being party to state-sponsored doping in 2015. At one point in the documentary, Dr Rodchenkov admits that Russian athletes cheated at the Sochi Winter Olympics. “We are top-level cheaters,” he admits.
Fearing death at the hands of the regime, the Russian flees to the USA where he turns a whistleblower. Through all this, Fogel helps him escape, and finds him shelter in USA.
Fire in Babylon (Directed by Stevan Riley) - Available on YouTube
Directed by Stevan Riley, Fire in Babylon is a spell-binding tale of the famous West Indian cricket team of the 1970s and 1980s.
Combining stock footage with interviews of Windies legends who graced the game in those years (Colin Croft, Deryck Murray, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Michael Holding, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, and Andy Roberts), the documentary shows how the fearsome unit looked at cricket as a means to abort racism.
It is about the struggle of 11 men, who, although came from culturally and politically diverse Caribbean islands, yet shared a common motive to make their presence felt whenever they stepped out on the field, especially against the English, their colonisers.
Legendary Clive Lloyd led a relatively young Windies unit in 1974 and in his first major challenge, the 1975-76 tour of Australia, the team suffered a 1-5 series drubbing, courtesy Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, who outbowled them. There was no looking back post this defeat and the men from the Caribbean, well known for their intimidating, menacing pace-attack went on to dominate cricket for around 15 years, the highlight being the 5-0 thrashing of England in 1984.
Featuring lethal bouncers, engrossing insights from legends, a brief historical account and flavour of the Caribbean culture (through rhythmic background music and visuals of beach cricket), the documentary is a must-watch for anybody who wishes to revisit the mighty Windies unit of that era and understand their struggles, achievements and world view.
The Two Escobars (Directed by Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist)
There are quite a few shows and documentaries on the drug culture in South America led by Colombian Pablo Escobar. But there is one story that brings together TWO Escobars – both Colombians – but no thread linked them. The other, Andres Escobar, represented the Colombian football team.
The documentary brings together the lives of both protagonists while maintaining the main thread: the relationship between the crime world and sports. Their paths only came at a head when Pablo would invest his ill-gained money to fund the success of the team that Andres represented at a local level.
At the 1994 World Cup, Colombia were strong candidates to lift the trophy. But it came at a cost, a lot of drug money was riding on the outcome, via betting, with dire consequences for the team in case of a loss. Against USA, as Andres stretched to block a cross, he only deflected the ball into his own goal. With drug war escalating in Colombia, football gave the nation hope. With the own goal, that was taken away and Andres was considered villain enough to get murdered for it.
Watch The Two Escobars for the profiles on the two men from Medellin – with both choosing different paths and different ways to take Colombia on the world map.
Death of a Gentleman (Directed by Sam Collins, Jarrod Kimber and Johnny Blank)
In comparison to other widely watched sports, Cricket documentaries, both in quality and quantity, fall way short of the likes of basketball, football and its American cousin baseball. And amongst the very little choices that are present, to find an up to the mark film is quite a challenge. However, when two fairly bonafide journalists set about to find an answer to a couple of fundamental questions – Is Test cricket dying? Will T20 cricket take over? – end up getting embroiled into the gargantuan mess that is: Cricket administration and its power structures.
Journalists and two of three makers of the film, Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber, engage in a conflict with adversaries who have held greater power and status, greatest, in case of N Srinivasan, that time ICC chief.
The 98-minute investigative documentary showcases varied stakeholders of the sport giving insights on the pressing issues that concern sport and its governance. From the coalition of ‘The Big Three’ in world cricket to the subjugation of the Associate members of cricket, the film lays a lot of behind-the-scenes clutter bare for the viewer to see.
Former Australia opener, Ed Cowan’s 18-Test career, forms the subplot offering an symbolic and a melancholic optics. If you care about Test cricket, or just cricket, then the documentary is a must watch.
O.J.: Made in America (Directed by Ezra Edelman)
To talk about OJ Simpson's life, one feature-length documentary or a film is not enough. Ezra Edelman knew the drawbacks of showing only a certain aspect or aspects of 'OJ'. To understand OJ, one needs to look at the complexities of race and celebrity in America, In a masterstroke decision, Edelman presented the documentary in a five-part miniseries format for ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series, and it worked wonders.
OJ made his name as one of the finest American football player ever to play the game. After achieving stardom as a player, he went on to become a TV broadcaster and also dabbled in acting. In 1994, OJ was arrested and tried for the murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in Los Angeles. OJ was acquitted after the much-publicised murder trial, but found guilty in a civil trial. In 2007, OJ was arrested again for armed robbery and kidnapping, and was later convicted and sentenced to or years of imprisonment. He was released in 2017 on parole.
The documentary tracks OJ's childhood, his exceptional talent, the celebrity status and his various legal troubles, but also presents the larger narrative of Los Angeles. How the city's black population has a troubled relationship with their police department, which resulted in many riots. It's a stellar piece of work and deserved to win the Academy Award of Best Documentary Feature.
Diego Maradona (Directed by Asif Kapadia)
Give Asif Kapadia a bunch of child prodigies who reached the pinnacle of fame in their adult lives but suffered physically and psychologically, bet the director will end up making riveting documentaries on each of them. After making Amy (on Amy Winehouse) and Senna (on Ayrton Senna), Kapadia's third documentary feature focussed on Argentina football player Diego Maradona and his on-field and off-field exploits with Italian club Napoli.
There was no doubt about Maradona's talent since he picked up the sport in his childhood. Maradona was born in a poor family, so football became a gateaway to escape poverty. In 1984, after a two-year stint with Barcelona, Maradona moved to Napoli on a world-record fee. It was in Italy where Maradona reached his peak of his footballing prowess but also started turning towards the dark side of the stardom.
Just like how he did it with Amy and Senna, Kapadia uses the archival footage to showcase the world around Maradona, when he was literally treated as a God. Kapadia took help of the people who were involved with Maradona around this time to narrate the story. It's fascinating how the footballer's personality can be divided into two – the sweet, loving, affectionate boy called Diego and then there was Maradona, who was flawed, who was addicted to cocaine and also got involved with the mafia.
All or Nothing: Manchester City (Directed by Manuel Huerga) Available on Amazon Prime
Directed by Spanish director Manuel Huerga and narrated by English actor Ben Kingsley, 'All or Nothing: Manchester City' offers viewers an opportunity to get behind the scenes behind the team’s famous Premier League success.
The eight-episode covers every aspect, memorable and forgettable, of City’s record-breaking season, where they romped away with the trophy after securing 100 points – 19 more than second-placed rivals-Manchester United.
Although they did seem to race their way towards the trophy, there have been certain hard-to-digest moments, and the documentary also takes us in depth to those – Benjamin Mendy’s season-ending injury in September, and well of course City slumping to their first Premier League defeat of the season to Liverpool in January 2018 to name a few.
The documentary also tells us the details of how Guardiola’s dynamic style of coaching has impacted the team, and how he always backed the side even in the hardest of times. There is even one instance where he motivates his players with an inspiring speech for their talismanic midfielder David Silva, who was away in Spain for the birth of his son Mateo, which happened to be premature.
All in all, the series provides a perfect example of the making of a champion team, and how a mastermind like Pep Guardiola helped his team script a never-witnessed-before sort of triumph in one of the world’s toughest leagues.
Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (Directed by Paul Jay)
If you grew up in the '90s, it's most likely you've put your siblings, cousins or friends in a Sharpshooter. It's also quite likely you've referred to yourself from time to time as "the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be". Finally, it's most likely that you snuck around to watch the then-World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) programming clandestinely because your parents had put down a strict ban on watching this stuff.
If none of the above applies to you, it's probably best to stop reading. If, however, one or more of the above do apply to you, read on.
Written, directed and produced by journalist/filmmaker Paul Jay, Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows follows WWF (in a time before the panda company laid the legal smackdown on the wrestling company, forcing the latter to change its name to WWE) wrestler Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in what would be the final year-or-so of his WWF tenure. Culminating in the acrimonious Montreal Screwjob — that not-so-scripted moment in the otherwise scripted history of professional wrestling, the documentary is in equal parts an exploration of the story of Hart's rise, a pulling-back of the curtain that conceals the world of professional wrestling and a peek into backstage politics.
Tracking down the documentary — whether in physical or digital form — has always been a hassle, not least because of WWE owner Vince McMahon's refusal to authorise the film and a rumoured drive to bury it entirely with all sorts of litigation. It's rather fortunate then that the maker of the Wrestling with Shadows saw fit to put the whole thing up on his YouTube channel (here's the link).
To say anymore would be to ruin the experience for you. So go and watch it for yourself. Now.
Updated Date: Apr 08, 2020 13:46:38 IST