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Themes and Messages in “Murderball” Documentary


Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s documentary “Murderball” looks into aspects beyond the parameters of physical disabilities and ventures into the identification of human will and spirit where the variable of physical disability becomes almost irrelevant. This is a narration of will power and making place in the society where certain physical disabilities are not enough to subdue the sporting spirits and lust for life within the characters like Mark Zupan, Bob Lujano, Scott Hogsett or Andy Cohn. This documentary is about the love of life and a champagne celebration of human spirit. There are several themes associated with the film like social justice themes, environmental or ‘green’ themes, community and social change issues that are worth mentioning in this efficiently constructed narration. Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s documentary “Murderball” is basically a film on quadriplegic rugby. Here the players are all physically disabled in one way or the other and plays the game in wheelchair. The narrative is about the participation of the US team in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. Here the prime instigator is Mark Zupan, the team spokesperson, who initiates the plays like Bob Lujano, Scott Hogsett or Andy Cohn to overcome their disabilities and succeed in the context of human spirit of life and compete with vigor during their rivalry with Canada. Here the game is played in a hard note and toil is gained out of the ultimate victory of going beyond obstacle of physical disability and that evoke the bliss of human spirit along with skillful sporting aspects. (Rubin & Shapiro 2005)

Theme of Community

Henry Alex Rubin documentary about Murderball or quadriplegic rugby is more about life and narration of life of people with disabilities than just a mere sport. However, sports occupy a central feature of the documentary and acts as a driving force of the film. It can always be mentioned that as the central characters are people with disabilities it is tempting to identify this group as a micro culture. But the basic aspect remains whether disability can be termed as a specified sect or not. Sure there are reservations from the parameters of government policies but to use the terminology ‘micro culture’ as an identifiable community appears to be less humane in approach. As a result from the point of view of humanity it would not be relevant t term these communities of disabled people as a member of a specified community or micro culture as in a community micro culture people tend to volunteer into the community but in this context the members are forced to the situation. Thus, the community narrated in the documentary ‘Murderball’ is a distinct community that is bonded by their individual physical drawbacks and this acts as a fundamental theme in the film.

Concept social change

The two main aspects of the documentary Muderball are sporting spirit and human dignity and these two are blended to from the overall theme of social change and social justice. These two prime features present in the film are the driving force of the narrations and there are several moments in the documentary where we find these two aspects becomes relevant than any other concept of the film. Characters like Mark Zupan, Bob Lujano, Scott Hogsett or Andy Cohn are all relevant two these two concepts and contribute substantially in the various aspects of the film. The sporting spirit is well covered all over the film but the most substantial indication of the concept comes alive with the scene when we find Mark Zupan expressing his thought on the game and hope to the players and at this point the film becomes the high point of social change. In the midst of speech and instigations we find Mark Zupan express the euphoric notations of life and sporting spirits. This approach towards life is the main aspect of social change where handicapped people are guided towards self sustainability and become a winner in life, much like the characters in the documentary.

Concept of social justice

The second most important aspect of the film is the concept of social justice put forward in the form of human spirit beyond the parameters of disabilities. It could be stated that this sense of social justice is spread all over the film and there would inconclusive to mention any one scenario in this context. But some scenes do come forward as a distinctive feature of the film. It is true that the game itself is extremely gripping and exciting but the feature that comes out of the aspects is the story of the individual self of the players. But to mention any one scene one should mention the scene that incorporates the die hard approach of the players during the game versus Canada. Here we find the players to be going beyond the aspects of disabilities and cherishing the flavor of humanity and human spirit. This is one part that becomes and epitomizes the concept of the film because here we find the players defying the law of the society and bringing glory to the nation even if they are not treated as equals in the society due to their disabilities. This is a high degree of social justice the film champions this spirit of social justice.

Environmental issue

Interestingly, there is a message of environmental issue related to the documentary. The message here is the concept of ‘green’ earth because all along the movie it is seen that the ultimate spirit of life comes out of physical labor and dignity is associated with this physical aspect. This makes the film green or environmentally friendly because the winners in this film are shown to be completely dependent on their individual capacity without help of too many gadgets or synthetic help. The bloods and toils in the film are real making the film a natural extension of life and thus the documentary becomes extremely green or environmental (Hoeman 2008).


The documentary Murderball is a true inspiring film that sets it apart from other inspirational films from the aspects human dignity and love for life. It is the vibe of the film that presents the participants with dignified and sporting spirit where the aspects of physical disabilities seize to exist in the minds of the viewers in the sense that after a while of watching the film the storyline and the spirit of humane approach becomes the center of narration for the film. This makes this film a true film of sports and above all Muderball reminds us of the spirited approach towards life that should always be cherished. This is a highly recommendable film and everyone should see it at least once to cherish the undying spirit of the human heart.


Hoeman, S.P. (2008). Rehabilitation nursing: prevention, intervention and outcomes. Ed. 4. NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Rubin, A H & Shapiro, D A. (Director). 2005. Murderball. [Documentary]. Alabama, USA. Paramount Pictures


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