Over a year since the release of Bennett Miller’s brilliantly directed Foxcatcher, a film depicting the events that lead to the murder of famed wrestler Dave Schultz at the hands of eccentric millionaire John Du Pont, comes a documentary that follows the same timeline from a slightly different angle.
In 1996 Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz was murdered by John Du Pont outside of his home on the millionaires vast area of land. Schultz had been hired by Du Pont to help train a new generation of wrestlers so that the United States could be once again the best in the world at the sport. In 1989 Dave Schultz moved his family to ‘The Farm’ a name for the training grounds and housing specifically created for the upcoming wrestling talent the nation had to offer. Over the period of time that Dave worked with the wrestling team, as well as training himself for the upcoming Olympics, the eccentric and often paranoid behaviour of Du Pont began to cast a shadow over there work. Without any major escalation in events, Du Pont drove along with his security detail to Schultz residence on his land and shot him in cold blood.
The documentary begins with a little back story on the state of wrestling as a national and Olympic sport, as well as where America stand amongst it. It then plants it’s flag in 1989, using the year Dave Schultz moved to the facilities created by Du Pont as a starting point. Unlike the film adaptation of the events, Mark Schultz, Dave’s younger brother, does not feature in the documentary as the creators exclusively focus on Dave’s involvement with the Foxcatcher programme, as well as his relationship with John Du Pont. This is move that actually works very well, as Mark had attended The Farm prior to Dave’s arrival, and it frees the narrative of the documentary from the constraints of covering such a long period of time. It also helps separate the documentary from the film, which focused on Mark’s relationship with Du Pont and had Dave as a supporting character.
Throughout the documentary we get numerous interviews with the team who worked with Dave on The Farm during the period of 1989 to the fateful day in 1996. Each of them give an insight into the unbalanced behaviour of their benefactor during their time training with the team. They help detail the paranoid notions of being followed and watched, his erratic decision to fire high level wrestling figures due to their skin colour, and why they tolerated it, even accommodated it. What gives the documentary more depth are it’s interviews with members of the USA Wrestling Federation, as they not only cover the personalities involved but why they didn’t intervene earlier.
With a wide collection of footage from wrestling events, interviews, and home videos created by those who lived around the facility, the documentary gives a deeper, personal look into the lives of those linked to the tragedy that befell Dave Schultz, and his family. There are a couple of interesting points which could have been explored in greater depth, such as the Police not taking action sooner after Du Pont barricaded himself in his mansion, the debatable instigating behaviour of the security whom arguably facilitated Du Pont’s paranoid behaviour, and the lack of action by the USA Wrestling Federation in intervening following reports of Du Pont’s hostile behaviour. However any further focus on these points would have digressed the documentary a little much from it’s focus on those who lived, breathed and suffered the events of 1996.
Team Foxcatcher is a solid, sombre documentary that doesn’t sensationalise anything, instead letting the footage an interviews speak for themselves. If you enjoyed the film Foxcatcher then this is a solid counterpart to watch and take in. We thoroughly recommend it,and it’s another cracking addition to the Netflix documentary catalogue.