The Olympics, The Paralympics, Wimbledon; we all recognise that sport unites. In a thick haze of testosterone and adrenaline, Poppy Stockell’s Scrum documents sportsmanship and unity in a whole new light. Meet the Sydney Convicts, rugby champions and devotees. The film’s USP? Well, these athletes are not just hard-core sportsmen, but a diverse bunch of homosexuals. With the Bingham Cup looming, each player must fight for his place on the squad – determined not to be benched. Stockell follows the team in both the lead up to, and through, the competition. The slow-motion camera work captures the ferociousness of the sport and with each touch down another stereotype is unpicked, opened-up and destroyed. Everything here is dripping in both sweat and masculinity. Within the cold walls of the changing rooms and in quaint cafes, we get to know the team more intimately. Stockell chooses to focus on just a few members of the squad – giving us a more detailed, intimate look into their sport, their struggles and their sexuality. An eccentric Irish man, a gentle Japanese giant and a ruggedly handsome Canadian are at the centre of this deeply powerful and personal celebration of both sport and self. You can smell the thick mud and feel the icy rain beating down in this visceral study of man and muscle. Amongst each manly training session are the echoes of banter and mischief – plus the occasional intimate moment which our director beautifully captures but never invades. Lively characters bring the charisma and comedy which blends eloquently with each intense sequence of relentless, grassy war-fare.
This is a simple story told well. A sports movie with more meaning, Scrum overwhelms and ignites. Breaking down preconceptions, this documentary is a constant reminder to us that whilst sexuality doesn’t define us, it’s still a crucial part of who we are. You find yourself rooting for the sportsmen and weeping for the broken boys beneath the gum-guards and bandages. Homosexuality does not mean compromising on masculinity – something we should all already be certain about but Scrum reminds us whilst sticking two middle fingers up in the face of ignorance. This is a film about men who play rugby; their homosexuality bringing them closer as team mates and friends. Men who seem to come from places of isolation are liberated through the acceptance they feel within the Sydney Convicts. The Bingham Cup was founded in memory of Mark Bingham, one of the victims and heroes on board the hijacked flight 93 on September 11th 2001. To honour him, this international, gay rugby tournament was born. Scrum is not only a wonderful documentary but a fitting tribute to Bingham. Scrum continues to dismiss gay stereotypes as Bingham himself did when he courageously attempted to overthrow the hijackers on that fateful day.
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