American Weightlifting: Documentary Review

I was recently invited to view the independent documentary American Weightlifting.


Greg Everett, a very well known lifter and coach, produced, directed, filmed, edited, and scored the documentary on his own. It’s a real passion project and I was thrilled to receive a press screener copy.

Overall, I think the film tended to bounce between a few themes and lacked narrative. About 95% of the documentary was interviews  played over b-roll of athletes training at Catalyst. I think Greg really missed out by focusing strongly on coaches and not interviewing very many athletes. I grew attached to some of the athletes in the b-roll, especially the high school athletes, and I would have loved to hear their stories!  Perhaps the part 2 to this documentary could be the weightlifting version of Spellbound. I would be into that.

That’s not to say I didn’t like American Weightlifting! I loved it! On many occasions I have settled into my couch and watched an hour or two of lifting competitions so I’m happy to watch Catalyst athletes practice drills, react to misses, and struggle through the heavy ones. I’m also interested in hearing about the history of weightlifting in America. This documentary will be appealing to most weightlifters, but I’m not sure that it has enough hook to bring in the non-lifters for two hours.

The highlight of this movie was Aimee Everett’s interview where she teared up while talking about her love affair with the platform and the bar. She talked about how weightlifting has given her so many happy things, but also torn her apart so badly. I’m still fairly new to this sport, but I couldn’t agree more. After I did poorly at a meet last weekend, I wanted to quit and never return while simultaneously I wanted to never quit and keep trying forever. I wanted these things equally. A torrid love affair.

Another great quote from the documentary: “You just have your body, your mind, and this one simple tool to express your will and measure your success”. That is such a beautiful definition on weightlifting.

When Greg sent me the press screener he suggested it might be especially relevant to the audience of this blog as it features so many female lifters. In fact, probably the majority of the lifters were women. Throughout the film, the viewer is treated to many women, of a whole range of body types, perform heavy lifts with great technique. I would probably go to their gym and be happy to watch them train all day! There were no gratuitous camera shots that zoomed in on scantily clad bodies, and there plenty of shots where women supported each other. Who would have thought that a documentary about weightlifting would pass the Bechdel test with flying colours?

The best part is that the inclusion of women didn’t seem forced or even intentional; it seemed natural. It didn’t seem like Greg actively had to remind himself to get some ladies in there to fill up some XX quota, but more like he just filmed his crew of athletes that he respects and duh, of course that’s with plenty of women.

Even the interviews with female athletes just focused on being an athlete. Oftentimes when female athletes are interviewed, the focus seems to be on “what’s it like to be a sports lady!!!?” whereas male athletes get to speak about their sport. COOL.

Feminist rating 5/5!

The documentary comes out on November 16th and you can purchase it here.

Also, watch the trailer. It made me tear up a little:

3 thoughts on “American Weightlifting: Documentary Review

  1. Cool! I definitely want to watch it!

  2. You were way too kind.

    It just dragged on, and on, and on how about how “and there’s no moneeeee” – the content in it could have been done in about 15minutes instead of two hours.

    Instead, they could have spent 1.75h on what’s the right form, how things are done, it’s history, it’s future, what you get out of it, but no, was mostly a load of whiny.

    I’m sad I wasted money on it. He had a great opportunity to do something amazing, instead, it fell flat on its butt.

    I listen to Robb Wolf on his podcast sing its praises, and I’m like, wha? Really?

    • Right, they spent a lot of time complaining that the reason we’re not as good as other countries is because we don’t fund our athletes as well, but didn’t spend much time explaining why it should matter if we’re as good as other countries

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