Disabled filmmaker Niko von Glasow would be the first to tell you he hates sports, thinks the Paralympics are dumb and that the whole notion of competing to him is a mystery.
Then he made the “POV” documentary “My Way to Olympia” and had an attitude adjustment.
The hour-long film, which premieres Monday, July 7, on PBS (check local listings), follows von Glasow — who was born with severely shortened arms — as he interviews athletes competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, trying to get a handle on why anyone, disabled or otherwise, would want to engage in competition.
“He’s investigating this need to compete,” Simon Kilmurry, an executive producer for “POV” tells Zap2it. “You know, what is it that drives people to compete? Because it’s not something that he feels.
“When I initially saw the film, it was certainly one of my feelings in watching it that he had both the skepticism of sports in general but then a particular skepticism around why someone with a disability would feel this need to compete, which is something he can’t relate to at all.
“And then I’m extrapolating from there, I think. The narrative of the Paralympics, not an untrue narrative but not a complete narrative necessarily, is as we market all sports — be they able -bodied sports or Paralympic sports — the narrative tends to be pretty simplistic. You have heroes pushing themselves to the boundary, overcoming obstacles, and I think Niko is trying to get beneath that narrative and get to a bigger story behind it.”
It’s a two-pronged story: One about disabled athletes and what motivates them; the other about a nonsports fan trying to understand it all.
And being disabled himself, von Glasow turned out to be an ideal conduit through which this story is told.
“I think that one of the reasons this film works so well,” Kilmurry says, “is that Niko can engage with the athletes on a level and ask questions which would be harder for an able-bodied person to ask. … They might be awkward and embarrassing to ask. But because he has his own disability, and they’re curious about his disability, they can engage in a kind of conversation which would be hard for me to ask them.”