Mudbloods: A Film About Quidditch (review)

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While viewers across the United States are transfixed on their TVs to catch the latest college football games, another group of students can solemnly swear that they are up to no good. Terrible Harry Potter joke aside, Mudbloods, A Film About Quidditch chronicles the journey of the UCLA Bruins inter-collegiate Quidditch team as they travel to and compete in the fifth annual Quidditch World Cup in New York City. The Kickstarter-backed documentary follows Team Captain/Coach and UCLA Bruins Quidditch Club founder Tom Marks as he attempts to guide his team to its first national title amidst fundraising issues and dealing with the adversity of playing a fringe sport.

The story also showcases the organizing of the Quidditch World Cup from the perspective of Alex Benepe, head of the IQA (International Quidditch Association) and one of the founders of the game as the venue and other pressures threaten to derail the tournament mere days before the starting ceremonies.

Having been invented at Middlebury College in Vermont in the year 2005, the sport has become one of the world’s fastest growing college club sports as the World Cup now attracts around 100 teams from schools all over America, Canada and beyond. The sport has also been showcased during the London Olympics!

Captain/Coach Tom Marks

Captain/Coach Tom Marks

The documentary starts in humble fashion within the confines of Tom’s dorm room, where he quickly explains the origins of his association with Quidditch and presents an overview of the team’s broom inventory. There is also a brief yet informative animated description of the rules of the game as the cameras follow an intense yet playful Bruins practice. The players also discuss the less positive parts of the game as they describe the reaction of fellow classmates and the lack of respect that their game is given.

Tom also describes the fundraising process the team must go through to finance their trip to New York City. As his fellow teammates are seen selling T-shirts to gain enough money to cover airfare and accommodation, Tom admits to having spent several hundred dollars of his personal money to finance and bankroll the original cost of T-shirts. If you’ve seen the cost of tuition and housing in the United States lately, this is seen as quite the sacrifice.

This is when Alex Benepe’s role in the tournament is explained. As head of the IQA, he and his team are responsible for booking the World Cup venue, hiring and instructing referees as well figuring out as logistics such as lodging and ticket sales. The documentary is not without its drama as a few days before the tournament, the New York venue announces to Alex that it cannot host the event without a full upfront payment. Having banked on the contract stipulation of paying half of the venue cost after the tournament’s completion (plus a late fee) in his contract, Alex is forced to spend the remaining balance of the IQA’s credit, essentially crippling any monetary emergency fund they may have had.

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Eventually, Tom and the rest of his team arrive in New York and the tournament is kicked off with a rousing speech from Alex, who regales the one hundred plus teams with stories of Quidditch’s origins, and the adversity he and the sport’s founder Xander Manshel experienced.

This is symptomatic of one of  Mudbloods most empowering and empathetic moments as the entire movie is laced with anecdotes and stories from players who have experienced bullying and the doubts that have been cast their way as they attempt to grow their favourite sport and its ever growing fanbase. While UCLA’s squad comes from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life, the players are unified and gain confidence from one another despite the underlying cloud of uneasiness that is apparent in some of their interviews. Whether the viewer is a fan of Harry Potter or not, the sense of feeling picked on or teased for doing what you love is universally experienced every single day. Mudbloods isn’t about bullying, but rather overcoming comments and other obstacles to enjoy what you like doing.

This is also where the storyline surrounding Harry Potter super fan Katie Aini intertwines with the rest of the documentary as her interview reveals an early fear to reveal to others her deeply rooted love for Harry Potter. Again, Katie underlines the confidence and bravery required to truly put yourself out there and accept your fandom, however unconventional it may seem to others. Katie is amazed at the spectacle of the Quidditch world cup and she mentions the sense of community within the Harry Potter fandom helps alleviate fears from others who may feel like outcasts in their own way.

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Katie Aini in her Harry Potter themed room

As round robin play begins, the Bruins are drawn into a tough group including reigning and undisputed Quidditch powerhouse Middlebury, and although their team easily disposes of the Finnish Vassa college, Tom immediately picks up on the team’s lack of confidence heading into their next round of games. As UCLA barely squeaks into the knockout rounds, a win over western rivals and friends USC and east coast team Michigan State sets up another match up with Middlebury College. In typical sports movie fashion, the highly touted semi final ends in controversy as a controversial referee decision affects the final outcome of the game.

While it’s sometimes tricky to remain informative and interesting at the same time, Mudbloods executes this flawlessly. The film score and animations blend in seamlessly for the rest of the film, and offer an different and interesting viewpoint to the overall movie. While the documentary may focus on Quidditch, the real subject is the sense of family and friendship forged within the confines of the game, and the courage and bravery needed to truly accept one’s self and interests. Mudbloods: A Story About Quidditch is heartwarming, captivating and one of the most magical sports documentaries you will ever see.

Rating : 5/5 Atoms

NR 5 Atoms - AMudbloods: A Story About Quidditch is available for purchase on their website and on iTunes!

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Eric Escaravage
Eric Escaravage 85 posts

Born and raised in the great white north, Eric grew up playing PC games and reading more Archie comics than is humanely possible. Clark Kent look-a-like on an epic quest to play all the retro games he wasn't allowed to as a child!