Following the best Brazilian Paralympic athletes post London 2012, Paratodos takes an uplifting and eye-opening look at the successes and struggles of these stars.
“At times, people believe in me more than I in myself…”
So says Daniel Dias, a 14-time Paralympic gold medallist swimmer. A man who, despite having over 24 Paralympic medals since his first entry in 2008, still struggles with self-belief and the perceptions of others in his day-to-day life.
Paratodos (translated as ‘4ALL’) is a documentary that, right off the bat, aims to inform the audience that success may not always breed confidence. Of the seven Paralympians that director Marcelo Mesquita focuses on, not one lives life as though he or she is a superstar.
The medals and the fame mean little when, on a daily basis, people look at you differently.
Yet what Dias simultaneously does is allow these troubled Paralympians a chance to voice their issues with society while also discussing their sporting successes.
It stands as a documentary, sure, but it thrives as a drama too, dealing with societal issues, the perception of disabilities and economic disparity in Brazil.
In addition to Daniel Dias, we also follow the journeys of: Susana Schnarndorf (swimmer, ex-triathlete), Fernando Fernandes (canoe rower), Alan Fonteles (sprint), Yohannson do Nascimento (sprint), Terezinha Guilherminha (blind sprint) and Ricardinho (futsal).
“In my mind, I am not disabled. God took my eyesight away and gave me the strongest legs possible. Who am I to complain when I have won gold medals for my country? I may not be able to see the gold but I can smell it, feel it. That, to me, is success” – Terezinha Guilherminha
Every story is one that evokes admiration from the audience. Mesquita allows his subjects the time and chance to talk about their past, how they became disabled, and how they fought against that to represent their country on the most elite of stages.
Take Guilherminha, a woman with a heriditary condition that caused five of her 11 siblings to be born blind. Despite living with that condition, Guilherminha went on to run in the Paralympics and win three golds in the last three tournaments.
How about Schnarndorf? A mother of three, world champion triathlete, aged 38, who lost both her legs in a car accident. After dealing with serious bouts of depression, she and her trainer decided it was time to get her competing again. This time, in the Paralympics as a swimmer.
These stories are exhilarating, touching and uplifting. There are moments where you cannot help but admire these individuals and how, despite their disabilities, they are still able to succeed in life.
From a purely technical and visual standpoint, Mesquita achieves excellence with his direction.
The production value is something quite unseen in Brazil, as documentaries tend to lack funding from the government. This is due to the fact that most documentaries focus on the apparent corruption of said government.
Mesquita, instead, has his criticisms of the government and society, but covers it behind the veil of sport. It is intelligent, nuanced and impressive direction for a documentary.
The Brazilian-born filmmaker also looks at Brazil’s relationship with disabilities: how hospitals deal with them, how the average person views someone with a disability.
It makes for shocking and upsetting discoveries yet, if one juxtaposes the stories of success with this, it becomes a tale of duality and redemption.
By focusing heavily on the stars, the film loses track in its commentary of empowering disabilities.
It never focuses on upcoming stars, or other Paralympians, rather those with the most success. This is why it falters drastically in parts and operates as a celebratory piece of elite sporting figures rather than a celebration of disability in every Brazilian Paralympian.
That being said, Paratodos is a strong and powerful documentary – one that requires viewing from every fan of sport.
It shows that there is more to sport than your staple physical specimens (Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James etc.) and that there is a lot to celebrate in the successes of those physically impaired in some way.
It does not make them less of a star; if this documentary is anything to go by, they shine brighter than any other type of sporting figure.
Paratodos is available on US and UK Netflix