“Remember me.” – Grigory Rodchenkov
Best Documentary Feature
My Two Cents
Posting 2 today…and picking a sports-related one since the Super Bowl kick-off is in just a couple of minutes…(p.s. this one has nothing to do with football).
Doping in sports. As an athlete and as a fan of athletics and sports, this is a topic that just really makes my blood boil. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries on the subject of doping, mostly those on stories of specific athletes. Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Mark McGuire, Olympic athletes, and the list goes on and on and on. Ugh. They all make me more than a little perturbed because they are slowly ruining and discrediting the culture of competition and sports.
So this doc starts out about a guy, Bryan Fogel, who has decided to intentionally dope himself, under the supervision of medical professionals and under the guidance of a man that knows how to avoid the traps of the testing, as he trains for and participates in an amateur cycling race. All to prove that the anti-doping system is broken. I mean I’m no expert, but I think it is real obvious that the system is broken…without having to jab multiple needles into your thigh and hiney regularly, making yourself a science experiment. But. To each their own. So that’s how it starts anyways.
But what began as doping-awareness experiment (and a pretty predictable documentary one could argue) becomes a far more serious endeavor as while doing this he happens upon an international doping scandal with the Russians, and his advisor on the anti-doping aspect of his experiment is none other than the head of the Russian anti-doping lab, Grigory Rodchenkov. He ultimately ends up in the US with the help of Bryan as he fears for his life in Russia (rightfully so – I mean hell, you’re taking on Putin basically and attacking the pride of an uber prideful and powerful nation). Together they take on the challenge of exposing the Russian state-sponsored doping operation, which through all of it’s twists and turns, sends Grigory into witness protection. It’s like something out of a Robert Ludlow book that made its way to the non-fiction section, categorized under “Cheaters, Frauds, and Wimps” and/or “Russian Scandals.”
While I could have done without the tinkering with the pee at the dining table ‘scene’ – gross – I was hooked. It was so well directed and well edited that at some point it stopped feeling like a documentary and became a full-scale major motion picture based on a true story. And whether or not that is a good thing in docu-land, I was sold. I felt like I could have watched a few more hours of the story to be honest. It was compelling, gripping, suspenseful, and honest.
Because there are so much politics in play at the Oscars, and Russia is basically all we hear and read about in the news these days, I could easily see this one take the trophy home. And if that’s the case, at least the film is worthy of it. I still have a few to watch, but it’s easily in my top 2 so far for the documentary feature category.
Go check it out – it’s a good one.