Fargo Film Festival 2014: Bending Steel

This year’s Fargo Film Festival kicked off tonight with a documentary called Bending Steel. All I can say is that I might never complain about doing something difficult again.

The documentary focuses on Chris “Wonder” Schoeck, a New Yorker who struggles to find his place in the world or connections with people. He also harbors a fascination with the legend of the Coney Island Strongman, men who could bend steel with just their hands, body, and iron wills. Chris sets out to join the ranks of the living legends currently in the field and to bring the Coney Island Strongman act back!

Check out the trailer:

Without giving the whole documentary away, it was truly inspiring. Surprisingly so. In addition to watching him bend thick steel bars, horseshoes, and a quarter (in his teeth!), it was a privilege to see Chris grow as a person over the two years the film took place. He begins as a man afraid of connecting and afraid of failing, but gradually becomes more open, funnier and much more eloquent while still remaining himself and setting his eyes on his goal.

Chris bends a metal bar of steel between his legs

Many in the audience I viewed the film with related with Chris’ journey, because although the average person might not be able to twist metal into the shape of their choosing, Chris’ desire for acceptance is incredibly relatable.

Chris “Wonder” Schoeck answered Fargo theatergoers’ questions after the documentary showed. I actually got to hold and test one of the rods he would bend only a few seconds later. I think I was pretty desensitized to how difficult bending steel actually is after seeing a bunch of strong guys do it during the course of the documentary, but actually examining that steel with my own two eyes and feeling its heavy weight in my hands reminded me what a feat it really is.

When asked about a part in the documentary where he said wanted to send the message to the world, Chris replied that his message would be: “Don’t quit five seconds before the miracle. And if it still doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world.”

Then he twisted a steel rod into a curly “Q” with his bare hands. If that doesn’t inspire you, especially after watching his emotional journey, there’s something wrong with you.

I am planning to cover the 2014 Fargo Film Festival, so expect more updates on the films showing this week!