Quidditch documentary focuses attention in wrong places

By Kathy Dimaya
Via Entertainment Weekly
Via Entertainment Weekly

A sports documentary of geeky proportions, “Mudbloods” delves into the UCLA Quidditch team’s grueling journey to the Fifth Annual Quidditch World Cup in New York City. The quirky topic, complemented by Potterhead passion that could give the Super Bowl a run for its money, makes for an entertaining look into this under-appreciated sport.

Described by quidditch founder Alex Benepe as a “cross between rugby and dodgeball,” quidditch unsurprisingly takes a majority of its rules and game play from the Harry Potter books and movies, with much note to the blood, sweat, and broken bones. The chaser, beater, and keeper’s roles are straightforward, but the ubiquitous questions all quidditch players must answer is: “How does the snitch work?” along with, “Do you fly?” The answer to the last question is a resounding “no.” However, the real life snitch is the simple ingenuity of a tennis ball inside a sock attached to a person who is allowed to roam wherever on campus they please, with reasonable limitations.

“This is real. We are real,” declares a player on the UCLA Quidditch team. Much of the documentary operates as a staunch defense of quidditch, legitimizing it as an actual sport, detailing its short eight year history, speaking with real quidditch players of the struggle to be taken seriously. If the film had taken a less protective stance and a more enthusiastic one, it would be less tiring to hear the same reprobations midway through the movie. Interviews were carbon copies of one another and all talked about their love of the sport, its lofty significance in their life, and their want for legitimization.

“Mudbloods” is as much a love letter to the Harry Potter universe as it is a documentary on quidditch as an emerging college sport. A lot of time, perhaps too much, is spent explaining Harry Potter, as if the world had not been obsessed with it for a whole decade. Director Farzad Sangari goes as far as introducing Katie Aiani, the #1 Harry Potter fan as voted by Box Office Magazine, and sharing her profound love of the series, which seems extraneous for a movie about sport. And for a documentary that claims quidditch is not about reliving the books and movies, an
inordinate amount of focus is directed at the deeper complex intricacies of the Harry Potter world.

Sangari’s “Mudbloods” is a curious venture into bridging the universes of nerd and jock, but the claims of sportsmanship are overpowered by the conspicuous “fangirling” over Harry Potter.

Kathy Dimaya is a contributing writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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