Rising Phoenix review – an inspiring documentary that carries the Paralympic torch from the ashes

August 26, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Film Reviews, Netflix
4

Summary

With the 2020 Paralympics on hiatus, Rising Phoenix provides an impactful, inspiring look at the games through the competitors’ deeply human and emotional personal stories.

4

Summary

With the 2020 Paralympics on hiatus, Rising Phoenix provides an impactful, inspiring look at the games through the competitors’ deeply human and emotional personal stories.

This review of Rising Phoenix (Netflix) is spoiler-free.


Every now and then, amid all the delays, complaints, conspiracy theories, last-minute rule changes, and other assorted oddities of our new COVID climate, something emerges that feels just right, as if an unprecedented global pandemic was all part of the plan. Rising Phoenix, a documentary now streaming on Netflix, feels like such a thing, a replacement for the now-postponed 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo that carries the torch for that prestigious event, its storied history, and its inspiring competitors.

Peter Ettedgui and Ian Bonhôte direct this well-produced feature with a focus on the human stories underpinning the games, which have worked to become the world’s third-largest sporting event. Away from the ceremonial trappings, this intimate account might work as a better explanation of the physical and emotional might of the competitors, all of whom exhibit not just athletic prowess but mental toughness of a kind you only get after a lifetime of being told “no”. Rising Phoenix also chronicles the event’s history and growth, but it remains couched in the perspectives of those upon whose talents it was built.

The stories told include those of French long-jump champion and Burundian Civil War survivor Jean-Baptiste Alaize, Italian fencer Bebe Vio Beatrice, Russian-American multiple medal-winner Tatyana McFadden, British sprinter Jonnie Peacock, and more. The history of the Paralympics is traced from the 1948 Stoke Mandeville games through a series of ups and downs – including the USSR predictably refusing to host in 1980 – to their current level of prestige and prominence on the strength of London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, despite the latter’s associated worries and scandals.

All told, this is a wonderfully inspiring and emotionally resonant documentary feature that is almost as powerful a celebration of the Paralympics than the games themselves. With a 12-month postponement, if Rising Phoenix isn’t quite a perfect replacement, then it’s certainly the next best thing.


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