- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
For Sue Kim, directing her first-ever documentary about competitive speedcubing culture and landing on the Oscars shortlist has been a whirlwind of excitement — almost as thrilling as watching her doc subjects flip cubes about in seconds to complete the colorful puzzle.
The Speed Cubers centers on Australian Feliks Zemdegs and American Max Park, two of the world’s Rubik’s Cube-solving record breakers, as they go head-to-head at the World Cube Association World Championship in Australia in 2019. Zemdegs, 23, hopes to hold onto his records, including the 3x3x3 event where one must solve a classic cube in the shortest amount of time. Park, who is coming up quickly in the cube world and beaten several of Zemdegs’ records, is also set on conquering the 3x3x3 event.
Kim spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how her documentary explores a unique competitive spirit between the two.
“What I love about Max and Feliks is they are revered in the cubing world. They’re rock stars in this world. And they show visible tenderness and they show they’re so gentle and loving with each other and the kids in that community, they look up to that,” Kim tells THR. “I think to some degree that model of gentler male bonding has trickled down so that the community itself is so kind and warm. All the kids hug each other after they’ve done well. That was a big thing for me as a mom. I’m like can we just put another model of aspirational, male friendship out into the universe?”
Kim says she was grateful to capture two young men cheering one another through competition, adding that in this community there is “a wonderful sense of community and decency” among all kids.
“I hope I was able to portray in this documentary how amazingly decent and weirdly self-governing this universe is,” Kim says. “I have had really in-depth conversations with other parents too. We all feel the same way, that we won the lottery somehow that our kids found this cohort that their peer group is genuinely kind and supportive. The sportsmanship is beyond. Competitors will help their closest rival with their cubes to turn faster.”
Kim also spotlights a transformative journey for Max, who is on the autism spectrum, and his parents who are his biggest cheerleaders. In the doc, Kim explores Max’s journey from a young child who dealt with motor skill issues to now being a world champion.
Being a part of the cube community herself through her own son, Kim says it was her understanding of this world that helped build trust with Park’s family in telling his story.
“I approached them as a fellow cubing mom. And it’s so funny because I know it sounds crazy to say ‘Oh, you’re a cubing mom. We trust you.’ But really the thing is that the cubing universe is so wonderful and it’s so inclusive and supportive. If you’re a part of that universe, you’re not going to do anything to damage it.”
The Speed Cubers is one of 10 shorts to make the Academy’s shortlist (along with two other Netflix projects — A Love Song for Latasha and What Would Sophia Loren Do?) That recognition alone has been both shocking and appreciated by the new filmmaker.
Yet the proud cubing mom adds that above all, she’s glad her documentary has shown “what our world can look like if we could be more like Max and Feliks.”
“That is to reach across the aisle to our supposed opponents and instead of tension and competitiveness, find bonding and connectivity and empathy,” Kim says. “In 2018 I was like, God, the world is so divisive and fraught and tense and we’re so adversarial with each other. But the fact that it came out in 2020 was just fate. I just think we need more stories like this out in the universe.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day