Murderball is a thrilling, moving and amusing film about Murderball a sport founded 1977 in Canada and later changed the name by obvious reasons to Quad Rugby or wheelchair rugby. It is more or less impossible to find sponsors and to get the sport recognized at the IOK. But that became the case, and Quad Rugby was granted full medal status at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, Australia. Quad Rugby is a full-contact sport played by quadriplegics in armoured wheelchairs.
In this film, we follow the national Murderball team or “Quad Rugby Team” of USA and above all its players.
As the film starts, the players define their sport.
–What are we doing, we are taking these chairs and make them into fucking gladiator battle machines, Mad Max machines.
And it is obvious that the wheel chairs are the athlete’s tools in this sport, the chairs are picked down into pieces and rebuilt up to and into what is needed.
As national team going for the Paralympics they declare;
–We won’t go there to get a hug; we are going there for the gold medal.
The sport has maybe the most literal form of handicapping, the players are defined after how quadriplegic handicapped you are meaning how big loss you have in limbs and torso They are rated from 1-3 the maximum points at the playground is maximum 8 per team. The playground is a regulation basketball court where they proceed to slam, block, and swarm the opposition in an attempt to move the ball from one end to the other.
The major rival for the USA is Canada. We follow their battles through three matches, World Cup in Sweden, seeding match in Canada and final Paralympics in Athens. Canada is more or less double enemy or rival since their coach Joe Soares once a star on the American Quad Rugby circuit but dismissed because of old age. Joe Soares now leads an embittered battle against his former team, and the American team considers him to be a traitor.
But this is also a story about the players. As the film starts we are introduced to Mark Zupan, he is changing out of his regular pants into athletic shorts without the benefit of movement in his legs, the nuts and bolts of a quadriplegic’s life come to light. Later in gym stating that he won’t take the shit, -Cant you hit a guy in a chair, Hit me, I fucking hit you back.
There are numerous personal dramas in the film; one is Joe Soares in his troubled dynamic between him and his non-athletic son. Another Mark Zupan’s complicated relationship with best friend Chris Igoe, who’s ultimately responsible for Zupan’s condition Perhaps the most moving story belongs to Keith Cavill, who’s not a player at all. We first meet him soon after an injury leaves him wheelchair-bound with only partial use of his arms and hands. The film follows him through ten months of rehab and his bittersweet return home, where he says sadly -I am in a wheelchair now, and it sucks.
We also see more of the everyday life of the athletes, what it is to drive, do dishes, pick up girls, play practical jokes, and have sex without the full use of your arms and legs or, in some cases, without conventional arms and legs at all.
But ‘Murderball’ is also the unabashed thrill of watching athletes come together to bash the ever-living crap out of each other.
Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 78th Academy Awards.
Murderball USA 2005, Directed by Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro
Produced by Jeffrey V. Mandel, Dana Adam Shapiro
Starring Keith Cavill, Andy Cohn, Scott Hogsett, Christopher Igoe, Mark Zupan, Bob Lujano
Music by Jamie Saft
Cinematography: Henry Alex Rubin