We Could Be Heroes begins with Azzedine Nouiri, 2012 Paralympic gold medal winner in the shot put, returning home to his beloved Morrocco. He’s greeted by the type of wild reception reserved for Drake in Toronto, and for a moment, life is good. But Azzedine has his sights set on competing in 2016, and bureaucratic resistance threatens to derail him from competing.
He finds himself in a tough spot when the Moroccan government doesn’t make good on the funding, supplies, and facility access they promised him. Azzedine takes offense to the Paralympic athletes receiving second-class treatment, so he writes letters, meets with officials, and protests. As if a world-class athlete doesn’t have enough on their plates, he takes a young man named Youssef under his tutelage. Youssef’s disability is more severe than Azzedine’s, but that doesn’t prevent Azzedine from trying to sculpt him into a Paralympic athlete.
Life gets complicated, messy, unfair, challenging, tough, and relentless. We all want to make sense out of all the noise, so there’s an appeal to distilling life’s purpose into one simple act. It’s one reason why we love sports. There’s a romantic notion to finding meaning and fulfillment in racing down a track, pole-vaulting, or throwing a javelin. We envy the athlete who can lose themselves in the simplicity of competitions.
By competing in the shot put, Azzedine tunes out the world. He briefly forgets his sick mother, pregnant wife, and his financial woes. Watching Azzedine on his path to the Paralympics is a sight to behold, and the way he commits his time to his pupil and friend makes him more endearing
Youssef is the most loveable sidekick since BB-8; he and Azzedine have the type of tender male relationship you don’t often see in western culture. Granted, their physical challenges demand more physical intimacy, but witnessing the love, warmth, and companionship between them made my heart smile the whole way through.
Hind Bensari’s exploration of a frustrated Paralympian is a worthy addition to this years’ festival. We Could Be Heroes packs inspiring highs and crushing lows that will stay on your mind long after the final credits.