Last week, I found time to view this year's Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, Icarus. It was a revealing, disturbing, informative inside look at the sports doping scandal and how the Russian state has a system wide cheating mechanism in place.
Many documentaries start out with a script, a narrative that they wish to portray, but others, Icarus being a great example, remain flexible and let the unfolding information write the script. This movie started out about an American biker who raced for years and then was shattered by the Lance Armstrong debacle. He knew that top racers were doping so he wanted to see what it did for them and decided to secretly film himself for a year doping, hoping he wouldn't get caught.
This led him to the head of the Russian lab that was suppose to be checking blood samples for the world anti-doping body. Turns out, with the right connections, this man was more than willing to help him beat the system and oversee his doping regimen. In doing so, you see how world class athletes have been enhancing their performances for decades.
During the movie you witness how urine samples are smuggled, how Russia broke into and tampered with samples during the Sochi Olympics. When it became public (and you see how in this movie) that the Russians were cheating on a scale that shocked everyone, we watch the the lab director start down a path to where he had to flee to the United States and take steps to protect his life from Putin.
This was a fascinating movie. The characters are in some way bigger than life. It also is a reminder of how vindictive and blood-thirsty Putin can be and how corrupt Russia has become during his reign. Like the athletes involved in doping, the can't win on their own ability and will do anything necessary to make themselves look good because for them, truth is irrelevant.
The movie deserved the Oscar. If you haven't seen it then you can stream it on Netflix which produced the project and is a film that once again demonstrates their tradition of making the world smarter through great documentaries. Oh, and how did the filmmaker do in his big race while doping? Worse than the year before. 5/5 on the rating scale.