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Rising Phoenix: a documentary about the Paralympic Games movement

Paralympian’s hail the launch of ground-breaking movie Rising Phoenix, which features the story of the Paralympic Games movement to coincide with one-year-to-go celebrations for Tokyo 2020.

Latest NewsTrailblazing Paralympics documentary ‘Rising Phoenix’ streams globally in over 190 countries on Netflix to coincide with the one-year-to-go celebrations for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which were pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Featuring nine Paralympians from across the world, this cutting-edge movie tells the remarkable story of the Paralympic Games from the rubble of World War II until becoming the third biggest sporting event on the planet.

‘Rising Phoenix’ examines how the Paralympics have sparked a global movement throughout the decades and shows how it continues to change the way the world thinks about disability, excellence, diversity and human potential.

The athletes starring in Rising Phoenix  

Nine Paralympic athletes including Bebe Vio, Jean-Baptiste Alaize, Cui Zhe, Tatyana McFadden and Great Britain’s Jonnie Peacock, share their exceptional stories of skill, power and determination to make it to the top of the third biggest sporting event in the world.

Jonnie Peacock - Paralympic Games

Multiple-swimming Paralympic champion Ellie Cole from Australia strongly believes ‘Rising Phoenix’ will help take the Movement in to the next level.

“When I see a piece of work like this one, and especially something that a brand like Netflix is taking up, I think back to when I was 9 or 10 years old and not knowing that Para sport even existed,” she said.

“I’ve seen the evolution to what it has become to the point where there’s a Netflix documentary and that is something else. It makes me proud because I’ve seen it change so dramatically. I know what it used to be like.

“I think people who watch the film, particularly those who aren’t fans already, are going to finally understand that the Paralympic Movement is really multi-dimensional. It’s actually so cool.”

South African Paralympic athletics silver medallist Ntando Mahlangu is one of the rising Paralympic stars, having made a name for himself at the young age of 18 following many successes on the track.

He agrees with Ellie that this documentary is an example of sport’s power for uniting the world.

“What is definitely in my heart is the story of the Paralympians. I think this is a platform where people will learn about the Paralympics and this is what I wanted.

“People are going to start supporting Paralympics, people are going to start knowing what the Paralympics are, so it’s going to be a good platform for everyone in the Paralympics.

Born without arms, archer Matt Stutzman is a well-known name in the Paralympics with his unique feet-shooting style.

The 37-year-old from Team USA athlete: “I think (the movie) is trying to bring awareness to everyone who is watching. Yes, we have physical disabilities but that does not stop us. We can still live normal lives; we can still be the person who goes to the grocery store and gets food. We can live like everybody else.

At the same time, wheelchair rugby legend Ryley Batt wishes he could watch ‘Rising Phoenix’ together with his grandfather. “I was by myself the first time I saw Rising Phoenix, and it even had me in tears. My Pop knows he was a big influence on my life but God, he would be proud to see this.

“Pop loved to get behind the camera, and he filmed some of the footage you see in the movie. He was very proud of me and he would be really stoked that I’m in a documentary like that, embracing who I am.

“I watched the movie for the second time with my family and they were all in tears. It wasn’t tears of ‘I feel so sorry for you.’ It was tears of pride, seeing what myself and these other athletes have overcome and also the challenges that we’ve all accepted.”

Rising Phoenix soundtrack created by disabled artists

As well as Paralympians featuring in this film, the music is created and performed by people with disabilities too.

The directors of Rising Phoenix, Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, were reluctant to have a well-known musician feature on the soundtrack. Speaking to Variety, Ian said:

“we were very reluctant to have a big name because we’ve got a film full of athletes who should be household names, and yet none of these people are famous. It felt wrong to have a big-name singer finish the film off.”

Fortunately, composer Daniel Pemberton discovered three American rappers, part of Krip-Hop Nation, “a loose-knit scene of disabled hip-hop artists,” Pemberton tells Variety, “quite a fascinating world, very overlooked and underground.

The three American rappers – George TraGiC and Keith Jones, who both have cerebral palsy and Toni Hickman, whose right side is now partially paralyzed after two brain aneurysms and a stroke – wrote lyrics that reflect the film and their own experiences living with a disability.

Daniel also had support creating the film score by three disabled musicians; viola and violin player Gemma Lunt and French hornist Guy Llewellyn, who are both wheelchair users, and visually impaired soprano Joanne Roughton-Arnold.

The title track from the film Rising Phoenix, scored by Daniel Pemberton and performed by Krip Hop Nation, is available to download from all major online outlets.

Rising Phoenix is available to watch on Netflix now.

By Emma Purcell

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Emma Purcell

Editor & Writer at Disability Horizons. Blogger at Rock For Disability. Loves live music, comedy, acting, chocolate and is a Harry Potter fanatic.
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