In Search of Greatness is a unique documentary that exposes a different side of athleticism that is oftentimes overlooked. The creator, Gabe Polsky, is an up and coming filmmaker and a former Division 1 athlete who graduated from Yale University. His first film Red Army focused on the history of Hockey in the Soviet Union. In Search of Greatness doesn’t focus on one sport, instead it highlights athleticism joined with mindful dedication and training. This film exposes the sacrifices famous athletes have had to make in order to be the best of the best. From the interviews, sound editing, and archival footage, the film paints a beautiful perspective of what it takes to be the greatest.
The first important element to note are the interviews; Polsky was able to speak with legendary athletes from history like Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice, and Pelé. These interviews carry the storyline of the film, but most of all they give direct insight into the mind of a professional athlete. I was fortunate to interview the director Gabe Polsky, and he stated that it took about a year to get in contact with these athletes for a video interview. He also went on to state that it was incredibly difficult to get in touch with these legendary people, which lead to difficulty finding female athletes to interview. The lack of female athletes in the film is the only criticism I have of the film itself, but it is understandable how difficult it would be to schedule time to interview these athletes, let alone find the perfect mixture of athletes from throughout history. In order to alleviate this issue, Polsky includes a great deal of archival footage from female athletes, which attributes to the reconciliation of not being able to interview any women.
On that note, the amount of archival footage that is included in this documentary is astonishing to say the least. The clips included are able to emphasize what the athletes are saying in the interviews perfectly and allows the audience to get inside the athlete’s mind. The dense amount of archival footage is so impressive that it truly makes the film; it adds to the storyline in such a way that it makes you as an audience member want to be great right alongside these athletes. This documentary inherently breeds feelings of nostalgia as a great deal of these athletes were highlighted in past commercials, movies, and television shows. You can’t help but reminisce on the moments, if you were lucky to be alive during that time, that you saw this history made. Alongside the clips included, the editing of the archival footage makes the film even more electric through juxtaposition, clever transitions, and emphasizing significant moments. They are an important addition to the film’s success as without these strong elements the film would have been completely different.
The sound editing and mix is both profound and shocking. One particular moment that stands out is the juxtaposition of Jerry Rice preparing for a game with the throat singing of chanting monks replacing the natural sounds of the stadium. This particular juxtaposition alludes to the mindfulness of a great athlete; the complete presence they have to have while they are in the game. This combination of chanting and archival footage is so beautifully thought out and exquisitely illustrates the thought process that Rice used to go through. This philosophical undertone exposes the thoughtfulness that of director Gabe Polsky, and exposes his brilliance as a filmmaker.
This film should be regarded in history as one of the greatest sports documentaries created. From the athletes highlighted in the documentary, to the intelligence exposed behind the athleticism, and the historical clips that show greatness; this film truly captures the magnitude of power one human can acquire if they believe in themselves. Documentaries like this one creates universal inspiration, allows aspiring athletes to see what it truly takes to be the best (and even how to get there). In Search of Greatness is beyond inspirational and one of a kind; I highly recommend attending a screening it when it is released.