At the 90th Academy Awards, all eyes were on Netflix’s first academy win in the category of Best Documentary Feature for Icarus.
In the documentary, which first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2017, filmmaker Bryan Fogel chronicles the world of illegal doping in sport.
The feature explores Fogel’s theory that it is in fact possible to dodge detection when drug tested. Simply, he believes drug tests for professional athletes aren’t accurate or efficient.
Fogel develops a relationship with Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory. Dr Rodchenkov shows him firsthand how it’s possible to take performance enhancing drugs and evade detection.
But the best documentaries come with an unexpected twist, a surprise even to the filmmakers themselves.
Dr Rodchenkov is eventually flown to the United States as a means of protection from the Russian government, after an international sporting scandal breaks, regarding the use of drugs by the Russian 2014 Winter Olympics team.
The reviews have been universally positive.
If you want insight into cheating in sports and the complicated reasons why it happens over and over, Icarus will open your eyes as never before. It is essential viewing for anyone interested in athletics or competitive sports of any type.
-John Doyle, Globe and Mail
Fogel’s willingness to follow a yarn that starts in one location before veering into entirely different narrative territory yields fascinating and entertaining results.
-Justin Burke, The Australian
Imagine a version of Morgan Sperlock’s Super Size Me in which, instead of merely bloating up, Sperlock entered into an uneasy friendship with an evil clown version of Ronald McDonald, and you’ll get a sense of this doc’s unexpected depth.
-Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out
A wildly timely movie for our current moment, as issues of cheating, illegitimacy and geopolitical bullies take centre stage.
-Robert Abele, TheWrap
When Fogel won the Academy Award in March, 2018, he dedicated it to Dr Rodchenkov, describing him as a, “fearless whistle blower who now lives in great danger.”
Fogel continued, “We hope ‘Icarus’ is a wake-up call — yes, about Russia, but more than that, about the importance of telling the truth, now more than ever.”
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