Friday, October 31, 2014

Fair Play [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Červený (3 1/2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing*

CineEuropa (M. Kudláč) review

Červený (J. Kábrt) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (K. Fila) review*

Variety (A. Simon) review (H. Petrželková) interview with director*

Fair Play [2014] [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Andrea Sedláčková [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* along with Irena Hejdová [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*) is a Czech, Slovak and GERMAN co-production that played recently at the 2014 (50th Annual) Chicago International Film Festival.

The film, a historical drama, is about a fictionalized 1980s (Communist Era) Czechoslovakian athlete, Anna (played by Judit Bárdos [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*) who, along with her teammates is doped with a performance enhancing steroid-based cocktail, in Czech called "Stromba," at least _initially_ without her/their knowledge, to thus "render greater glory" to the then Communist System in the run-up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games (Some viewers/readers here would recall that the Communist bloc ended up boycotting those games, held in the U.S.A., ANYWAY.  So the whole exercise was futile ... But the "sports doctors" posing here more properly as "witch doctors" were being asked to get the athletes "ready" ANYWAY). 

Now how would Anna and her team-mates initially "not know" that they were being doped in this way?  Well (1) they were young (Anna would have been in her late teens, early 20s); (2) they were proud that they were already athletic enough to "make the grade" to be selected for the state-sponsored national athletic training program, and the said national athletic training program already had a scientific/professional almost science-fictiony / "space program" feel to it (besides coaches there were all sorts of trainers, sports doctors and other therapists always hovering about); and (3) they were already receiving regular "vitamin injections" as part of the nutritional regimen of their program.

So the "simple change" from one set of injections to another would not draw a great deal of initial notice by the athletes themselves -- except for (1) sensing a new level of defensiveness / evasiveness on the part of the coaches and sports doctors, when one or another of the athletes would ask questions that would seem otherwise quite reasonable:

Q: "What's the new concoction supposed to do?"
A: "It'll increase your muscle density, making you stronger and faster, and in a way that _nothing else in sports medicine_ can deliver."  Hmm...

Q: "Why am I being asked to sign special forms now that I didn't have to in the past"
A: "Well, you've been _selected_ to participate in something very special here, my dear.  YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF HAVING RECEIVED THIS HONOR, and WE KNOW THAT you'll make OUR WHOLE COUNTRY proud."

Q: "What if I refuse to take the new injections?"
A: "Well, YOU'LL HAVE TO LEAVE THE TEAM, something that will certainly be a great disappointment to us AND TO THE WHOLE COUNTRY, as we and THE WHOLE COUNTRY have already _invested a great deal of money and resources_ into your training/preparation"

and (2) beginning to experience the multitude of steroid-based side-effects:  the sudden experience of various abdominal pains when one had no previous history of such things in the past; the predictable appearance chest and facial hair that would certainly terrify most young women; a noticeable spike in the number of tendon injuries among one's team-mates.


Well, folks, that's the rest of the film.  What do you do?  Czechoslovakia was NOT a free country in the 1980s.  And even Anna's own mother (played wonderfully by Aňa Geislerová [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*) WHO HATED THE REGIME encouraged Anna to continue to take the "Stromba."  WHY??  "Just shut up, keep your head low, qualify and then you'll be able to get out of the country and YOU'LL FINALLY BE ABLE TO BE FREE."

Of course, though, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic along with the rest of the Communist Bloc ended up boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Games ANYWAY ...

It all makes for a fascinating movie about how DEFENDERS / PROPONENTS of an INSECURE / PARANOID IDEOLOGY can come to MESS WITH THEIR MOST VULNERABLE (HERE ITS YOUNG) for the sake of "PROVING" that SAID IDEOLOGY is "better" than it really is.


An excellent English language recent documentary on the former East German athletic doping program is the PBS's Secrets of the Dead: Doping for Gold [2008] episode available for streaming free on the PBS's website.

Additionally, a recent there has been a critically acclaimed GERMAN documentary You Will Not Lose (orig. Einzelkämpfer) [2013] on the matter as well (Interview with former GDR athlete and director of the documentary Sandra Kaudelka).

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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