Sports documentaries are some of the most inspirational. They can tell stories of underdogs, champions, and tradition. Sometimes, the films dig into the human condition and explore how people survive. Runner is a documentary about Guor Marial. Marial began his life in war ravaged Sudan and went on to become an Olympic athlete. It is also a story of acceptance and moving forward.
The film is a look at Marial’s life. Understandably, there is no footage of his childhood. Director Bill Gallagher uses beautiful animation to cover these points in Marial’s life. These add more emotion than just narration would. The look at Marial’s high school years are some of the most enlightening moments in Runner. There are many interviews with his classmates and teachers. All of the – along with Marial himself – speak with unquestioned joy about the time.
It is during these scenes that Runner shows an innocence that one cannot help but wonder still exists in America. This is not a story about a country; it is about a person. But the awe and wonderment he has when he first comes to the States seems almost antiquated. It is touching to see Marial’s memories and sad to think of what is happening in today.
This adds a charm to the documentary. There is a sincerity that makes Marial’s story that much more engrossing. As the movie progresses, the runner literally becomes a man with no country. Runner does a good job of highlighting the emotion of each obstacle put in front of its subject. It is a Hollywood story come to real life. The makes everything even more interesting.
Runner touches on a number of issues with Marial. Due to its willingness to take on so many varied subjects, the documentary does have a tendency to feel disjointed at times. This never stops the film from hitting its emotional highs, however. There is an especially powerful moment when Marial returns to his home country for the first time in two decades. The reaction of his mother is one of the most powerful movie moments of the year.
Sport documentaries cover a variety of subjects that can lead its audiences to feel many different emotions. Runner is an inspirational story about a man who has been running his entire life. From his escape from slavery as a child to his attempts to compete in the Olympics, the story of Guor Marial has a story that is moving and poignant.