Poppy Stockell’s beautifully observed documentary takes us to the big, beating heart of this fundamentally Australian phenomenon: The Sydney Convicts. I loved Scrum.
Rugby is always about trying to advance the ball forward, but director Poppy Stockell’s steamy, pulsating, gritty documentary concerns players seeking acceptance and baring their very souls (and plenty more) on the field. Scrum might technically refer to restarting a play in order to gain control of the ball, but it’s really about a group of guys packing close together in one place—in this case, gay rugby’s 7th Annual Bingham Cup in Sydney, with 1,000 participants from 15 countries. The documentary zeroes in on three determined gay athletes vying for a spot on the elite Sydney Convicts team: Aki, the Japanese outsider who worked tirelessly for two years so he could travel to Sydney; Brennan, a hunky Canadian jock who was built for contact sports but rejected by his former, straight teammates after they discovered he was gay; and Pearse, the Irish backpacker bullied in school, tired of being continually put down. Scrum pulls the viewer right into the sweaty, grueling Bingham Cup, becoming not only a dramatic competition film, but also a film that finds the heart of the sport’s universal themes: acceptance, teamwork, and mud-soaked male camaraderie.