Award-winning documentarian Ravit Markus is set for the world premiere of her latest documentary Nina is an Athlete at the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival in January. The film tells the story of Israeli wheelchair badminton champion Nina Gorodetsky's push toward the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Aspiring to represent Israel in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, the nearly 40-year-old Gorodetsky faced her first and possibly last chance to make it to the Paralympics. At the same time, Gorodetsky's biological clock is ticking as she also desires to have a second child.
Both aspirations become even more complicated when a worldwide pandemic took hold in early 2020 and everything - the planning, training, and normal life itself - came to a complete halt.
With both intimacy and universality, Markus captures Gorodetsky's wildly unpredictable three-year journey toward realizing her Paralympic dream and living into her maternal desires.
A production of New Love Films, Nina is an Athlete continues the Los Angeles-based production company's longstanding commitment to telling meaningful stories. Markus received the Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness grant from NY Women in Film and TV to support her work on the film.
Nina is an Athlete is refreshingly devoid of overt sentimentality and faux inspiration. It's easy to admire Gorodetsky, who won the 2008 European Para-Badminton Championships as a single player and joined Amir Levi to win the 2018 European Para-Badminton Championships in mixed doubles. Yet, Markus chooses to weave together a balanced tapestry that captures the interwoven nature of Nina and her disability with a sense of normalcy and quiet respect. The film's empowerment shines through as Markus avoids dipping into what the disability community calls "inspiration porn" and instead crafts a quite lovely film grounded in truth and naturalism. It's clear that Markus has done her research here and, wisely, also included Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jim LeBrecht as an advisor for the film.
The story here is all Nina's. Born in the country of Georgia, Gorodetsky emigrated at age 11 to Israel. At the age of 17, she was severely injured in a traffic accident that led to her being a wheelchair user. Markus captures the fullness of Gorodetsky's life from marriage to motherhood, remarkable athlete to national role model and, yes, ordinary human being.
Nina is an Athlete is an engaging and entertaining documentary that beautifully normalizes what it means to live both an ordinary and an accomplished life with a disability. By the end of the film's 72-minute running time, you'll likely be like me and rushing over to your computer to learn all you can about Nina Gorodetsky.
NINA IS AN ATHLETE Slamdance Screening information:
Friday, January 19 at 10:30AM
The Yarrow – Theater A
Monday, January 22 at 3:00PM
The Student Union Theater at University of Utah
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic