Everyday Activist - Stay Close (Oscars 2020)

Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2019 at 08:00 PM

Stay Close (Oscars 2020)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

In a writing group I attend, one of my friends talked about her writing process. Her premise evolved from being about maintaining a good marriage to a thriller complete with offers to be smuggled out of Africa. Someone reading her draft found the real story amid the original narrative. Having a strong relationship helped her to do the right thing during a crisis few of us will ever face. Stay Close needed a similar set of second eyes to shape the story. The documentary failed to capture the dynamic tension between an athlete’s circumstances and his Olympic dream, instead opting for a nearly chronological progression.

Festivals and critics loved the film using combinations of animation, shot and archival footage. The visual elements worked beautifully together. My complaints are with the screenwriting. Shulan Fan, the co-director, doesn’t convince me of “her talent for story structure.”* For writers, it’s the difference between writing an autobiography or memoir. Memoir focuses on a specific time frame rather than the entire chronology of a person’s life.

I would have built the narrative around Keeth receiving the news that he would never compete again, months before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. All the training, conditioning and fundraising out the window. When tough times happen we rely on our families, except Keeth couldn’t. Then I would elaborate on why his parents weren’t at his bedside, and finally how he got into fencing via his talented younger sister. Shouldering the burden to heal from a major illness without those who loved him the most, made his appearance at the 2008 Olympics all the more miraculous. People with less strength and conditioning than Keeth might have died.

Director, Luther Clement, was a competitive fencer as well until an injury ended his career. Through the Peter Westbrook Foundation for fencing, he stayed close to the community as he developed a passion for filmmaking. Back in 2014, Clement had a previous concept in mind to profile many different people; instead of just one. From the Kickstarter page, we notice Clement’s obsession with the Olympics, explaining his choice to lead with the games rather than Keeth’s health crisis. Blood oozing from orifices seem more dramatic than an Olympic match.

Stay Close is available on the New York Times Op-Ed page. Notably, an amazing NY Times Op-Ed documentary that didn’t make the Oscar cut, but nailed the storytelling with compelling visuals was Jason DaSilva’s film, The Disability Trap about the differences in healthcare from state to state. His previous film, When We Walk, won an Emmy Award as DaSilva documented his life for six years after a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Healthcare varies from province to province, but overall I feel that the level of care would be similar. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in the United States. A friend who lived there commented, “Everything’s bigger in Texas, except people’s hearts.”  

Calgary Showtimes: Stay Close >


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