“Going into these competitions, we were just concerned about his ability to deal with failure.”
In a world that is growing increasingly competitive, it should come as no surprise that deep within the folds of World Championships, there lies a quirky, ultra-competitive group of speedcubers who, thanks to skill and precision, can solve a Rubik’s Cube in mere seconds. Every two years, this group meets to determine the best in the world as they break records and gain notoriety amongst their peers and the universe at large.
Sue Kim’s The Speed Cubers infiltrates the under-recognized world, bringing its leading athletes into focus. Though the sport is growing, she centers her telling on the unique rivalry/friendship of the two most highly respected players - Australian veteran Feliks Zemdegs and United States newcomer Max Park.
The short, which runs just over forty minutes, moves quickly, refusing to get bogged down in details, eliciting a sense of emotion as we learn about Max’s autism diagnosis and his occasional struggle to socialize. Kim does a near-perfect job at blending in his trials with his triumphs, interjecting information from his parents while focusing primarily on Max’s rapid rise amongst the speedcubing community.
Even with his ascent, it is near impossible not to see and, to some extent, understand the struggles that face Max and his family. But this is where the story reaches its apex as Max and Feliks meet. Though the two juggernauts reside on opposite sides of the world, they bond over their love for the Rubik’s Cube. Without hesitation, you watch as Max takes to Feliks’ every move, striving to be more like his mentor as he navigates his way through dinners, competitions, and interactions with fans.
Stuck within the visually blatant, Kim captures the raw emotion of two young men who, though competitors at heart, are filled with kindness, empathy, and admiration. Feliks takes to Max, accepting his role within the relationship as he guides the games’ newest celebrity through the rigors of stardom. Their interactions are a symbol of joy and respect as they compete to win, but direct their intensity to the game stage.
By the time the World Championship comes into view, The Speed Cubers has effortlessly migrated from a sports documentary to a dissection of competitive behavior and its intersection with humanity. These two men, win or lose, are there for one another, encouraging each other in both sport and life. As cliché as it sounds, regardless of the outcome of the prestigious 3x3 competition, they both have already won.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.