In Netflix’s latest documentary, Rising Phoenix, the film follows the story of a group of world athletes leading up to the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Directed by Peter Ettedgui and Ian Bonhôte, the film takes a dive into the understanding of disability and diversity in society. Film critic Clarisse Loughrey from the YouTube channel Kermodeandmayo discusses and shares her thoughts on the sports documentary.
The central concept and the central part of this is the mood and it's none of this patronizing, faux inspiring thing you often get when telling the stories of disabled people … yes the people profiled in this have faced incredible adversity … mainly they are just highly trained athletes, they are power houses.
Loughrey praises the film for its portrayal of these elite world athletes in a way that makes them seem almost superhero-like. An example of this is in the cinematography and visuals of how the athletes are presented during each of their backstories. She goes on to describe in one scene, the film is spotlighting Italian athlete BeBe Vio and how majestic she looks, comparing her to a Joan of Arc type character.
There are all these gorgeous evocative shots of the athletes that are profiled and the one that I really loved is this Italian wheelchair fencer named Bebe Vio … she’s wearing a 2017 spring/summer Christian Dior dress … and it’s got these swords embroidered down the skirt, a giant heart bodice and she’s standing in this baroque ornate palace and she just looks so ethereal, she looks like Joan of Arc, she looks like a warrior woman.
The documentary evokes questions such as why are the Paralympics often seen as an afterthought and why it is considered a separate entity from the Olympic games, according to Loughrey, who feels the film does an excellent job in creating a better understanding for what it means to have a disability in today’s society.
Clarisse Loughrey is a regular stand-in for Youtuber Mark Kermode on the channel Kermodeandmayo, where they review new movies and TV shows weekly.