At first glance, “The Speed Cubers” (2020) seems to want to follow in the footsteps of “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” (2007), a documentary set in the world of arcades and the competitiveness that was set between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell for the Donkey Kong world record. Basically, two men facing off in search of glory, here moved to the fascinating universe that represents the ‘speed cubing’: professional sport that encompasses those who can solve a Rubik’s cube in just a few seconds. Australian Feliks Zemdegs and American Max Park are two of the most recognized champions and this documentary short film, directed by debutante Sue Kim, brings us into his short careers ahead of the last world championship in Melbourne, Australia, in July 2019. Kim concentrates on the tension of this confrontation, but first he shows us the relationship that exists between these two opponents: a friendship proof of any victory… or defeat.
For nearly a decade, Zemdegs was seen as the champion to overcome from this discipline that takes on notoriety over the years. Thanks to his own testimony and that of his mother, more archival images, we meet the enthusiastic little Feliks, obsessed with the creation of Hungarian Ern Rubik, until he becomes this young adult, with several records in tow, who must begin to resign his passions in the name of the responsibilities of maturity. The Australian’s reign is undoubtedly coming to an end, replaced by Park.Max’s skills is a young Californian who broke into the cubing scene in 2017, leaving everyone stunned. That day, Park took home the gold medal, but also the possibility of meeting her greatest idol: Zemdegs. Since then, Max has dedicated himself to surpassing each of Feliks’ brands, except for the 3x3x3 Cube test, a classic that remains his outstanding subject and one of his greatest frustrations.
It’s not that easy for Park to deal with defeat, but it’s not so easy to deal with championship pressure and crowds. Like many aspects of his life, these were (and are) obstacles he had to learn to assimilate and overcome from his place in autism spectrum disorder. And it still does. For Max the Rubik’s cube became a crucial element in developing its fine motor and concentration. Even to exercise your social and emotional skills almost nil. For his parents, cubing is a therapeutic method that helped improve his son’s life, but also the object of those setbacks that he must learn to control. “The Speed Cubers” lets us spy on the intimacy of these two champions, but the most important thing is the friendship relationship they established beyond the competitive realm. A correspondence that has its complications for these rivals who do not always manage to say in words how they feel. Kim centralizes his little story on these issues, without getting into the history of the cube or the history of the championships. If there is room to explain the complexity of this sport so dependent on algorithms and mathematics, let alone the speed of the fingers.
The invincible Max Park
Even when the moment of truth comes, and the showdown between Max and Feliks in the arena – an important championship for Zemdegs, who returns to his native Melbourne – our “loyalty” fluctuates between these two paladins who deserve to win but, above all, keep that friendship intact to the test of everything. This is the hardest obstacle that both players must go through, beyond their relationship to gambling, victories and defeats. Thus, “The Speed Cubers” transcends the sport theme and even the “anecdotal” of a new contest, to run the point of view and show a more human face. This has nothing only to do with Max, autism and self-reuperation – Kim never places him in the victim’s place – but also with Feliks and the beginning of the end of this tour, a little subtle metaphor about maturity, as it is proven that “adults” are not as good as young men in solving three-dimensional puzzles.
Two friends proof of everything
In its short forty minutes, “The Speed Cubers” has a bit of everything to offer: the excitement of the championship for sports lovers and Rubik’s cube in particular; the more “healthy” aspect of the competition, and the story of these two players twinned by a small colored polyhedron, whose lives were positively affected by the presence (and not the rivalry) of the other.
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