Trailblazing Paralympics documentary ‘Rising Phoenix’ premieres globally in over 190 countries today (26 August) on Netflix to coincide with the one-year-to-go celebrations for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
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.
Bebe Vio (Italy), Ellie Cole (Australia), Jean-Baptiste Alaize (France), Matt Stutzman (USA), Jonnie Peacock (Great Britain), Cui Zhe (China), Ryley Batt (Australia), Ntando Mahlangu (South Africa) and Tatyana McFadden (USA) are the nine Paralympic athletes whose exceptional stories are depicted.
Multiple-swimming Paralympic champion Cole 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.”
Paralympic athletics silver medallist 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 Cole 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.
“Sports are supposed to keep us together and to bring us together and I think this film is definitely going to do that, not only for people who know about the Paralympics but it’s going to bring the whole world together.”
Born without arms, archer 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.
"In this documentary they really allowed me to just be me. If I wanted to be funny, I could be funny. If I wanted to do something specific, they were very open about showing the world who Matt Stutzman was. For me, that made it amazing because most of the time they have an idea of what they want you to say or talk about, but because of this freedom I could show the world a different side of Matt. Maybe what Matt really is. To get that opportunity in such a film makes it even better.”
At the same time, wheelchair rugby legend 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.”
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that this film will transform every single person who watches it. This is a film that will empower so many people around the world and further bring to life the vision of the Paralympic Movement’s founder Sir Ludwig Guttmann.
“To call this movie a game-changer for the Paralympic Movement is an understatement. It is a very special film and I cannot wait for the world to see it.”
Rising Phoenix is an HTYT Films and Passion Pictures production in association with Ventureland and Misfits Entertainment.
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.