With the Summer Olympics right around the corner, we will once again experience the kind of stories and emotions competitive sports are able to deliver. The underdog winning against all odds, the has-been with a last shot at redemption, the millisecond photo-finish, the ecstatic joy of a gold medal winner and the crushing disappointment of those losing out after years of hard training. As well as probably a couple of new world records and maybe even some ‘firsts’ in a few of the given disciplines. The heroine of Anderson Wright’s short documentary NZINGHA also has the chance to make history – should Nzingha Prescod medal individually in women’s foil fencing at the Rio Olympics, she will be the first African-American woman to do so in the history of the sport.
Visually stunning, Wright’s film tells the inspiring tale of athlete Nzingha Prescod through captivating images and sound bites that give us glimpses into her background. Documenting the fencer’s journey to becoming one of the best in her chosen field and her motivations to keep fighting – even though she says that she doesn’t like to fight people – we are instantly drawn into this sportswoman’s world.
The inspiration for the film itself came from an intriguing take on the concept of sport documentaries, expanding upon the way sports are experienced in general. “Many sports begin with a face-off between opponents. Sports films often dramatize these face-offs in order to build tension. We look into the athletes’ eyes in these moments, and we can recognize their confidence, their fear. Fencing rebukes this trope. When the athletes wear masks, how can you read them?”
Reflecting on the dynamics of the sport and how the three-person crew managed to capture them in the amazing technical execution of NZINGHA, director Anderson Wright further explains, “A fencing bout flows with distinct movement, and we wanted to play with that in the film. So much of a bout is defined by stillness, and then the action suddenly escalates into a flurry of hits. Director of Photography Todd Martin sought to bring this rhythm to life with his camera approach. From afar, dueling fencers create a graceful image. It looks like a dance. It’s really a fight. The controlled violence of the sport really comes across when you see it in person, and I think this is due to the sounds. The reverberating wire, the metallic clash of foils, the impact of body hits; it’s so visceral. We knew that a heightened sound design would be necessary to bring these sensations to life on screen.”
Nzingha Prescod’s story and the artistic merits of this short will stand on their own no matter what the upcoming outcome of her participation in the Summer Olympics will be. But for the sake of a perfect real-life ending, let’s keep our fingers crossed that Nzingha will leave her mark during the games come this Saturday, August 8th 2016.