‘Rising Phoenix’ Movie Review: Let Prince Harry Introduce You to Some Awesome Athletes
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is a featured interview in the documentary Rising Phoenix. As founder of the Invictus Games, he speaks to the history of sport in rehabilitation. Rising Phoenix is about the Paralympics, not Invictus, so the duke is only featured briefly. If he’s enough to get you in the door, though, the Paralympic athletes are incredible.
Meet the Paralympic athletes of ‘Rising Phoenix’
Rising Phoenix profiles nine athletes through their competition in the Paralympics. Each athlete is unique but equally inspiring. They each tell their personal story and what drew them to their sport. Fencer Bebe Vio is literally called the Rising Phoenix because she came back from meningitis, requiring the amputation of both arms and legs, to become a competitive fencer with prosthetics.
Directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui combine their interviews with event footage, home videos where available, and artistic footage like Ellie Cole swimming underwater, or Jean-Baptiste Alaize training in slow motion. Vio gets the badass strut like an action hero suiting up for battle. The technique highlights both the beauty of their athletic prowess and the emotional story of what they’ve overcome.
Their stories can be medical, like Cole’s amputations to treat cancer or Vio’s meningitis. Archer Matt Stutzman was born without arms. Alaize was a Barundi Civil War survivor. The point isn’t to compare stories, but rather to show the variety of situations one can experience. One compares them to superhero origin stories. One could say the athletes are arguably more impressive than superheroes because they’re real.
The history of the Paralympics
Rising Phoenix checks in with the Paralympics every four years. The viewer can see the evolution of the event as it grew in stature with the athletes, and attracted larger and larger audiences. It’s also fun to see the footage grow from standard definition to HD. This is also the section where Prince Harry can speak about the history of the treatment of people with disabilities, and how sports can empower them.
The 2016 Rio Games went through precarious upheaval and Rising Phoenix documents that. International Paralympic Committee former CEO Xavier Gonzalez and former President Sir Philip Craven also speak to the organization’s history. Howeve,r it is always most exciting when Rising Phoenix returns to the individual events and athletes.
Real life ‘Rocky,’ ‘Rudy’ and ‘The Natural’ stories
The event footage Rising Phoenix includes is the most exciting. You get to see the athletes in their glory, and the filmmakers really build up the suspense of each event. If you didn’t follow the Paralympics and don’t know the outcome, you’ll really root for the athletes you’ve met along the way.
Not each story ends in victory so, you don’t know. You could get Rocky/Rudy story where going the distance is enough, or a The Natural/Hoosiers underdog victory. The beauty of sports movies is you don’t have to be an athlete to relate to the struggle. Rising Phoenix gives these real athletes their Hollywood moment. Rising Phoenix comes to Netflix Aug. 26.