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Film

A documentary exploring the lost art of the oldetime strongman

Rooftop fittingly brings to Coney Island this emotional documentary about a man searching within himself for a true old time carnival strongman. Step right up, ladies and gents, for feats of superhuman strength!

THE FILMS
BENDING STEEL (David Carroll | USA | 90 min.)
Chris Schoeck is a pint-sized powerhouse of a personal trainer. He spends his days pushing others to push themselves, but rarely challenges himself. In his mid-40s, he lives alone and admits he doesn’t have any meaningful relationships. But he has one growing passion: bending steel with his hands. Nails, horseshoes, crowbars, he’s building his abilities. When you bend steel, he says, you can do anything. 

We watch as Chris learns hard lessons from the greats of this craft: Slim the Hammerman, who’s been holding giant mallets above his skull for decades; Chris Rider, who routinely dazzles crowds at weightlifting competitions and carnival museums; and The Mighty Atom, the legendary 19th Century Coney Island strongman famous for his self-sacrifice. Chris realizes that anyone can work the weights and get strong; anyone can suffer the hand pains, bruises and broken teeth to learn the technique; it takes a special talent to entertain an audience, to demonstrate your talent in a way people appreciate. The great performers of the past had a message. For that, Chris not only needs power, he needs to find a voice. For once in his life, he’ll have to show vulnerability. 

With subtle but deft directing, Dave Carroll manages to follow this timeless quest story with stunning intimacy: at times it seems the film is inside Chris’ head, revealing secrets he never meant to share, but must. As Chris interacts with his loving but indifferent parents, disappointed by their son’s underachieving, the film exposes Chris’ troubled past with such delicacy it’s as though his memories are ours already. As Chris builds toward a self-defining performance on Coney Island, his strong arms and fragile psyche are equally strained. Success or failure will define Chris forever after. We promise you’ll remember the screening of this astonishing documentary, with a special presentation by the documentary subjects, forever after as well. 

Mindy Bond Editor

Rooftop Films 2013: Bending Steel

Monday, July 8, 2013 7pm

Coney Island Beach (Surf Avenue, New York, NY) Map it Free

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Picture?width=50&height=50 Added By Mindy Bond