CaSFFA: Stephen’s Review – 38

Ice Hockey Star Pavol Demitra Was A Big Man In Many Ways. A Fitting Tribute To A Bright Talent Lost Too Soon.

A simple but disarmingly powerful documentary that stormed the box office in Slovakia last year, Daniel Dangl and Lukáš Zednikovič’s 38 charts the ambitious rise of Pavol Demitra to ice hockey superstardom and is a clear highlight of this year’s Czech and Slovak Film Festival Australia, opening today.

Growing up, Demitra was so obsessed with sport in every iteration that his devoted sisters would handle his homework so he could squeeze in tennis matches and his beloved ice hockey, creating his own rink by pouring water on car parks in sub-zero temperatures, then rounding up the neighbourhood kids to take part.

Demitra exudes charisma, an exceedingly cheeky sense of humour and an unbound passion for life he shared with high school sweetheart Majka. What makes this insight into the ups and downs of a career that would eventually take him to America to play in the NHL a bittersweet affair is his tragic death in a plane crash start of the 2011-12 hockey season which wiped out the entire Russian club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

Majka is our main window into his hopes and dreams, and she bears herself with stoicism and remarkable grace as she travels across Russia in a series of trains to face, for the first time, the place where the plane went down. In recalling their first awkward romantic steps, it’s clear she shares his wicked sense of humour.

Far from hagiography, it’s a warts and all approach that addresses the human faults and failings. Other talking heads include his sisters, father and distraught teammates, both Slovak and American, all of whom clearly doted on the big, burly family man with a heart to match. Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, this is a film about love, family and friendship and that bonds that endure long after we are gone.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords


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