“Murderball,” a documentary film about wheelchair rugby (or quad rugby) and the men who play it, will be shown starting Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Smith Opera House.
Played on basketball courts, “murderball” is a ferocious game played by quadriplegic athletes who have both little and everything to lose. It's rough and tumble, with players being tipped over, smashed into and generally manhandled by opposing teams.
Because no two players have the same physical impairments — some are partial quadriplegics who have mobility from the waist up and flexibility in the hands, others have limited dexterity and smear their palms with glue so they can catch the ball — those impairments are assigned a numerical value, such as 2.0, and each team is restricted to a certain cumulative figure.
The idea of the game is to carry that ball across the touchline at each end of the “field,” no matter how. Players stop each other from crossing the line any way they can, whether it means blocking them with a wheelchair or simply sending them flying.
Like most classic sports films, this one has a bitter rivalry. On one side is Joe Soares, a former member of the USA national team who thinks he has been unfairly cut. So he becomes the captain of Team Canada and makes crushing the American team his seemingly sole purpose in life. On the other side is Mark Zupan, looking like he just came from a prison yard with his Satanic goatee and tattoos and smack-you-back attitude. He's the best player on the American team, with a completely unhealthy hatred of Soares, and the feeling's mutual.
Zupan, who has become the public face of both the movie and the sport, brings his own emotional baggage to the film. Thrown from the back of a truck while sleeping, after which he held onto a branch to keep from drowning while waiting for more than 13 hours for rescuers, he has never really confronted his life before paralysis. A college-level soccer player before his accident, he has used the game to keep his past at bay.
The documentary may be seen at 2 p.m. Oct. 23 and at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25; it is rated R and has a running time of 86 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. For details, call (315) 781-LIVE or toll-free (866) 355-LIVE.