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Played in armored wheelchairs worthy of Mad Max, quad rugby (aka “Murderball”) is a no-holds-barred, highly competitive, physically violent sport whose competitors are quadriplegics. Whether by car wreck, fist fight, gun shot or rogue bacteria, these men are forced to live life sitting down. But in their own version of the full-contact sport, they smash the hell out of each other in custom-made, gladiator-like wheelchairs. And they don’t wear helmets! Co-directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro uncover uncommon humanity at the core of men who shatter handicapped stereotypes and exemplify determination in the face of extraordinary obstacles. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
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 Murderball

Mark Zupan, the quadriplegic star of our film who is the captain of the U.S. Quad rugby team, joked when we met him that he loved his “ass-level view” of the world.

We tried it, and we agreed. The ass-level view became part of our daily worldview. Whenever possible we shot the film while sitting in a wheelchair or from wheelchair height. We used spare wheelchairs the way other films use dollies, pushing and rolling our way all over the world—USA, Canada, Sweden, Greece—through bars, high school reunions, strip clubs, bathrooms and Olympic events.

While shooting from two wheels we learned firsthand the obstacles one faces in a world of paralysis and that our ‘muscular’ upper bodies aren’t as developed as we initially thought:
       Overgrown tree roots
        Inclined streets
        Narrow doorways
        Confused bus drivers
        Shithead bouncers

The only drawback to spending months in a wheelchair was the passersby who kept stopping us to ask how we’d injured ourselves. Coming up with a quick lie came more naturally than you’d imagine.

Once inaugurated into the world of Quad Rugby, co-director Dana Adam Shapiro and I were forced to reevaluate our own body parts. It made us really appreciate every inch of our able bodies. No two quads are the same, and they’re always talking about how much “function” they have. Dana was always ranking our body parts in terms of our individual bodily preference. Sometimes we’d rank our various limbs and ligaments from 1 to 10.

What would you rather have?:
        Hands or feet?
        Biceps or triceps?
        A thumb or four fingers?

We learned of a rivalry between quadriplegics and paraplegics. Team USA player Scott Hogsett summed it up in the Phoenix New Times. “Paras think they have it so good because they have full use of their hands,” he said. “They hate us quads because we can get boners and they can’t. Frankly, I’d take a boner over hands any day.” No arguments there.