Chris Schoeck holds a steel bar on the Coney Island boardwalk
We first heard about the documentary Bending Steel when it made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival back in April. Hell, we even fueled the film's premier after-party with boatloads of rum (see the pics HERE). The celebrating of the film's successful launch was nothing short of spectacle - men of all shapes and sizes took stage, twisting horseshoes, bending rods, and contorting various cuts of metal using their bare hands. But we knew the film was much more than a showcase of sideshow acts, and its about time we finally saw that for ourselves.
The traveling carnival sideshow acts of yesteryear were filled with personalities showcasing human oddities, daredevil stunts, or other unusual curiosities.Many of the first fully tattooed men and women made a name for themselves by showing off their inked skin in these attractions, being deemed "made freaks" by the audience.And then there was the strongman, using brute strength to dazzle audiences by bending metal objects with their bare hands.Unfortunately, once the 20th century brought on competitive weightlifting and other feats of strength, it seemed that the plight of the strongman was all but forgotten. However in recent years, interest in the sport has skyrocketed, sparking a grassroots movement resulting in the formation of local clubs a cross the country.
On that note let us say right here that while director Dave Carroll and producer Ryan Scafuro's Bending Steel takes a look into the life of modern-day strongmen, it focuses much more on the personal journey of Chris Schoeck from his modest practice space in a basement, to taking center stage. This goes beyond your typical coming-of-age story and nixes the corny montages as his strength - and confidence - increase. It's completely raw, and that's why we dig it.
Schoeck is pretty unassuming at 150 lbs, much the opposite of the muscle-clad person you'd expect as a strongman. And then there's the fact that he's struggled to build human relationships his whole life, battling with extreme introversion and not getting the parental support he needed. Nevertheless he finds solace in friend and trainer Chris "Hairculese" Rider, who welcomes him into the strongman community and helps him find his presence. He starts to rub elbows with strongman legends like Slim "the Hammer Man" Farman, who carries on the vaudeville legacy of Joe "The Mighty Atom" Greenstein.
The film culminates in Schoeck's entree into the strongman world with a performance in Coney Island - a place where freak shows, bearded ladies, and strongmen originated. He delivers a both humbling and inspiring performance that leaves viewers in "wonder" (pun intended). But we're not going to spoil it for ya. So if not for a glimpse into a lost art, or an uplifting story about an underdog, we can say Bending Steel gets nods from Sailor Jerry for telling the story of legacies being spread through generations. Get to a screening and see this kick ass film!
Bending Steel Official Movie Trailer from Bending Steel Movie on Vimeo.