A Review of American Weightlifting

by coachdanbell


Coach Greg Everett’s new documentary American Weightlifting is an earnest insider’s look at a little known and even less appreciated sport in the United States. While Coach Everett is obviously passionate about his subject, he is a novice filmmaker and storyteller; these shortcomings may keep American Weightlifting from finding a broader audience and raising public awareness of the sport the way Pumping Iron did for bodybuilding in the ’70s.

Everett interviews coaches and athletes trying to find what drew them to and keeps them involved in a sport that offers little in the way of financial reward or social recognition. With a tiny budget for the film, thus little for travel, Everett focuses on the veteran coaches and athletes close to him, rarely straying from the West Coast. This does not hurt the film, as the emotions and problems expressed in the interviews seem representative of many weightlifting coaches and athletes. Still, it would have been interesting to hear the thoughts of other successful American coaches such as Glenn Pendlay, Kyle Pierce, Tim Swords, Don McCauley or Mark Cannella.

The film addresses problems of the sport in the USA, but little is offered in the way of answers. Oddly, the only interview with anyone in a leadership position within the sport is with Rick Adams, former CEO of USA Weightlifting. If you are talking about the lack of popularity of a sport, it’s anemic growth and poor international results, wouldn’t an interview with the current CEO or members of the Board of Directors be an obvious approach? Some contrast with the view of those in the trenches might be a source of conflict that not only would raise the level of storytelling, but help illuminate the story for viewers. Nor are we ever offered a look at the powerhouse foreign lifters and programs that loom so large over US weightlifting; it is a David versus Goliath story that has the potential to be riveting.

But it is in the art of film making that Everett falls short. He has a great subject, and even with limited travel finds revealing interviews. However, the film is overly long with far too many training scenes. It would have benefited greatly from a stronger and more experienced hand in the editing room. With a wealth of material and potential conflict, there is no rising action, no climax scene, in short, not a hint of classical story structure. It leaves the film flat and repetitive. Which is a shame, because it is a story ripe for telling. American Weightlifting is a noble effort, driven by love of the sport and no doubt an equal share of frustration, but it is likely to strike home only with people who already spend a lot of time with their hands on a barbell.

Dan Bell