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Overcoming (2005)

 -  Documentary  -  28 April 2006 (UK)
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Profound and penetrating insight into the hermetically closed world of professional cycling. With former pro rider, Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis as the protagonist, the documentary ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Michelle Bartoli ...
Himself
Ivan Basso ...
Himself
B.S. Christiansen ...
Himself
Ole Kaare Føli ...
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Brian Nygaard ...
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Andrea Peron ...
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Bjarne Riis ...
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Carlos Sastre ...
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Jens Voigt ...
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Profound and penetrating insight into the hermetically closed world of professional cycling. With former pro rider, Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis as the protagonist, the documentary follows him and his new Team CSC as they strive for the impossible: to become the world's best and win the Tour de France. Written by Danish Film Institute

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28 April 2006 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Pokonac siebie  »

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Whispering at the Top of My Lungs
Performed by Timothy Christensen
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A fascinating look behind the scenes at the 2004 Tour de France
16 September 2005 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Viewers without pre-existing knowledge of the tour may find the opening minutes of Gislason's documentary challenging as it follows the Danish Team CSC's experiences on the 2004 Tour de France. No primer is offered to explain the tour's objectives, its breakdown into day-long stages or the tactics deployed by the riders—this is definitely not OLN, and the film's cohesion suffers a bit because of that.

We learn, for example, that owner and head coach Bjarne Riis wants to build a team using untraditional training methods, but Gislason never explicitly tells us how Riis's methods differ from those of the other coaches. Likewise, the first race scenes establish the tour's competitive and emotional importance for the riders, but the nuances behind their activity is left unstated. On one level, this film was definitely crafted for a niche audience.

Nevertheless, Overcoming has plenty to offer the uninitiated. During his opening comments at the festival screening in Toronto, Gislason said he hoped the audience would be drawn into the film's emotional story, and it's here that he largely succeeds. Despite the disorienting introduction, he effectively documents the compelling story of CSC's multinational nine-member team, led by rising stars Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre.

We bear witness the challenges, setbacks, and injuries common to every sporting competition but which are magnified by the tour's intensity and grueling pace. The crashes are horrific and the athletes' determination to compete in spite of broken limes and torn flesh formidable, but Gislason's exploration of the group's dynamic proves most compelling in several ways:

1. Communication is a recurring challenge as the riders hail from multiple nations and speak more than half a dozen languages between them. Although they often default to English, it's interesting to observe how many times underlying concerns, and not fluency, interfere with each team member's attempts to make his opinions felt.

2. Riis clearly wants to foster teamwork in the truest sense, and not divide his riders between Basso and Sastre. His efforts to manage everyone's expectations, including his own, provide interesting insight to anyone currently holding or seeking a leadership role. Watch for the scene where Ole, the physiotherapist, cautions Riis against closing others out through his body language—it's beautifully handled.

3. The backstage perspective affords a unique angle on the strategizing that goes on between coaches and riders, both on the same team and across teams. The exchanges-—some on camera, some merely suggested—-point to the complex emotional and rational decision-making required to win the Tour de France.

At the stylistic level, sweeping helicopter passes over the peloton and choppy, hand-held shots taken from the CSC team car create a refreshing immediacy compared to the television coverage usually shown in North America. The base-heavy score provides rousing accompaniment in the first hour (particularly when the riders are moving in their phalanx-like formations), though it descends toward trite melancholy in the closing minutes.

Likewise, the epilogue concerning Michelle Bartoli's resignation from the team overextends the film's conclusion and would have been better left as a DVD extra. Parts of the white subtitles frequently disappear against the background and make for difficult reading, especially compared to the more artfully arranged orange text that provides commentary in lieu of a more intrusive voice-over.

Overcoming is an entertaining documentary that should enthrall racing fans and entertain more causal viewers. I hope it's picked up for DVD release at the very least, if not wider distribution.


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