IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS is a documentary that seeks to find the secret behind the success of ‘great’ athletes.
The film never really defines greatness. What is greatness? From the first few segments of the film, the idea of greatness appears to be narrowed down to the greatness of athletes. Their ability to do well in their field of sports be it football or soccer or hockey. Still greatness is assumed to achieve fame in their sport so that they become world-famous in their sport. Intelligence, dedication and other factors are tied in as well. The film relies heavily on the interviews with authors and creativity experts Ken Robinson and David Epstein.
The main point drummed into the audience is that one cannot measure greatness. The film does measure it in terms of fame, or why would they pick Lou Ferrigno, Jerry Rice or Wayne Gretzky to be their spokespersons? What is the filmmakers measurement definition of fame then in picking them? But another associated fact is that one cannot train for greatness. If one as become a hockey star, he cannot go to hockey school or a special hockey camp to cultivate that greatness. The film comes up with dozens of examples of people that go against the flow. It never however mentioned the exceptions of the people who did go for special training and followed the rules who got into major leagues. I am sure there are many here too.
The road to greatness? The hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and “Red Army’s” Gabe Polsky, among others have a lot to say based on their experiences. Most of these are common sense. But it is educational and there is nothing wrong to be clarified on what common sense can teach human beings.
So what are these common sense pointers? It seems silly that one should attend a full length feature to learn what is commonly known. The most important point that is emphasized time and again is the need to ditch conformity. Following the formula of a great athlete’s training does not make another great athlete. From the film, these can be summarized, of course from the point of view of the doc’s ‘experts’:
rage to perform: in other words, dedication is key as emphasized by Wayne Gretzky. He would rather spend two hours hitting the puck instead of going to a movie with his pals.
ability to learn: in other words, intuition, again Gretzky could immediately analyze the payers in a game within the first few minutes of play
Despite the concentration on sports greatness, the film only narrowly touches other fields of genius. The film contains footage of many great athletes at their heights (Pele, Muhammed Ali, Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, Serena Williams) which makes like cameos in a feature.
One can only wonder why director Polsky does not apply the principles of greatness in the making of his documentary. IN SAERCH of GREATNESS is an ok doc but to a great one.