Paralympic trailer is a superhuman effort
I wrote recently that many of the best short films that are made each year are adverts. Here’s one of 2012’s. It advertises Channel 4’s forthcoming coverage of the Paralympic Games and, though it is only a 90-second TV trailer, it is an astonishingly effective film.
It is obvious from the advert’s opening moments that it is a high-quality production but we soon feel we have its measure. As the first shots of hard-working Paralympians appear, music kicks in. The hip-hop track Harder Than You Think, by Public Enemy, is an apt but unsurprising accompaniment to images of these inspiring athletes.
We think we have already inferred what the trailer exists to tell us: Paralympians are serious athletes who have overcome serious challenges and deserve to be taken seriously. We shouldn’t overlook disabled sport. It’s harder than we think. And so on.
But then a bomb goes off. It’s somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan. The blast throws a British soldier backwards. We see a second or two of an awful car crash. We watch a heavily pregnant mother being given bad news about her baby.
The images are arresting and shock us out of the safety of our assumptions, about the trailer and about the athletes in it. Suddenly, we see those athletes as they are: not something less than normal athletes, but something more. The words “Meet the superhumans” appear onscreen.
It’s clever, succinct film-making. I admit that this is a trailer almost scientifically designed to appeal to me: I am disabled and a wheelchair-user; I am a film critic fond of short films; and I am sportswriter whose excitement about the Olympics is almost uncontrollable. But this is a short film that will, I am sure, affect many people as strongly as it affected me.
Aside from its artistic merits, it is also a fine technical achievement. According to its director, Tom Tagholm, the trailer was shot over “15 or 16 days” (feature films have been made in less time) and one shot, that of the disabled swimmer diving into the pool, even necessitated the invention of “a rig that allowed the camera to not only go in the water with her but to be sufficiently separated from the rest of her body so that you could see the whole of her back and head and arms as she made her way in to the water.”
Clearly, this is a pioneering film in several ways. And it manages, better than all but a handful of films I have ever seen, to show disabled athletes as they deserve to be seen. I cannot watch a Paralympic event without being inspired. Paralympic competitors demonstrate the best not just of the Olympic spirit but of the human spirit. Every one of them accepts whatever challenges or misfortunes face them and learns to adapt and overcome.
There are few attributes more admirable in a person or more beneficial to a society. This trailer has me as excited for the Paralympics as I am for the Olympics. And, if it is indicative of the quality of coverage Channel 4 will provide, then their Paralympic programming will set new standards for the coverage of disabled sport.
Check out Channel 4 Paralympics - Meet the Superhumans trailer for yourself on Youtube http://youtu.be/tuAPPeRg3Nw .Thanks to Emma Samms and Peter Hoskin for bringing this trailer to my attention and to Paul Edwards of Channel 4 for pointing me towards details of its production. By Scott Jordan Harris. Scott is UK correspondent for Roger Ebert and a contributor to BBC Radio 4’s The Film Programme. He is on Twitter as @ScottFilmCritic and can be emailed at ScottJordanHarris@gmail.com.Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook 0 comments Links to this post Shakespeare's Iraq hits London
As part of the 2012 Summer Olympics hosted in London, the Royal Shakespeare Company challenged theatre groups around the world to create contemporary re-imaginings of 16th century playwright William Shakespeare’s classics.
Of the many unique and creative performances, ‘Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad’, performed by the Iraqi Theatre Company, caught my eye. Could one of Europe’s greatest romantic tragedies, written in the 16th century, tell us something about Iraq in the 21st century? Adapted into colloquial Arabic, and performed by an Iraqi cast with English surtitles above the stage, the story, while written in an Iraqi context, is a familiar one.
The story opens with two brothers, Montague and Capulet, who have feuded for nine years over who will steer their family’s pearl-diving ship. This serves as an apropos metaphor for Iraq at the beginning of the war. Romeo and Juliet, who like all the play’s characters retain their original Shakespearean names, have already met and fallen in love before the feud.
They have been kept apart by the cycle of violence resulting from the feud between their fathers. The play focuses less on their romance and more on how families, communities and nations can easily and quickly be torn apart. The story prompts the audience to reflect on how pride, regret, a lack of mutual understanding and interference from the outside are obstacles to resolving conflicts peacefully.
Once blood has been spilt, we are never sure if peace can be restored. The play’s director, Monadhil Daood, fled Iraq in his 20s after staging a play under Saddam Hussein about the Iran-Iraq war. In 2008, he founded the Iraqi Theatre Company to “bring a contemporary cultural voice of unity and inclusiveness into the civic discourse in Iraq”.
Monadhil says that “I think my [play] ‘Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad’ will be a mirror. The audience will see themselves on the stage.” In the buzzing auditorium, I saw his prediction come true. The emotional effect the play had on its audience was clear. During the performance, many had eyes filled with tears.
At joyous moments, audience members tapped along to the wedding songs and laughed at the inclusion of an old Iraqi folk story about a beetle looking for love. During the most emotional moment of all, I felt almost swept off my chair at the audience’s roar of approval as the imposter, who was betrothed to Juliet against her will, and who had stoked the tension between the two families, was cast out by Juliet’s father, Capulet.
This character, a miserable hardliner, represents the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Through Capulet’s action, the betrothal is reversed and his presence is no longer accepted. The real story of Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad is of the audience, who see their lives played out before their eyes.
The drama was an opportunity to create enough distance from their own stories so that they could look at the effect of the last nine years on their homeland, with its immense loss, death and suffering. It was an opportunity to move on, make sense, find catharsis and even laugh.The play at its heart is a universal story of the birth and development of conflict, stoked by fear, misunderstanding and pride. It shows how outside forces can stoke conflict and divide groups of people, and reflects on the need for unity.
But more importantly, through such plays, we are confronted with universal truths: conflict persists across human societies and it must be addressed before it spirals out of control. But most of all, the aspiration to love and be loved is present in all times and places, whether in Baghdad or Verona, for lovers like Romeo and Juliet, or for brothers like Montague and Capulet.
By Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of ‘Love in a Headscarf’