The Speed Cubers
Director: Sue Kim.
I have a personal fascination with Rubik’s Cube, I use to have one as a child and could never solve the puzzle. Then I was inspired as an adult when I watched Chris Gardner’s biography, The Pursuit of Happyness and got myself another cube. And yes, I can proudly say I can solve the cube in an impressive time, actually faster than it’ll take you to read this post. But hey, enough boasting from me, because there is no way I can solve the puzzle in record breaking time. Unlike the guys featured in this vibrant, short documentary.
But the film isn’t about, what’s considered the world’s best selling toy, the Rubik Cube; it’s most certainly the best selling puzzle game of all time with over 350million cubes sold since Ernõ Rubik invented it back in 1974. The documentary is about the dedicated, professional Cubers who compete to be the fastest cube solvers in the world. Namely two people who have dominated the world leagues and records for the last ten years.
We are introduced to Feliks Zemdegs, Australian multiple world record holder and champion; and American Max Park, his competition; a relative newcomer compared to Zemdegs career. But basically these two have been at the top of their game for a number of years. Essentially they are rivals, but what the film shows with great warmth, is their friendship and admiration for one another. Zemdegs being an idol to Park, and Park being Zemdegs’ somewhat protege.
And these guys aren’t old; they’re not reigning feuding champions that span decades. Zemdegs is only 24 and set his first world record back in 2010. Max Park, 18, has been smashing records since 2017. We see how their parents have had to deal with their child prodigies, seeing the great lengths and improvisation they have gone through in order to support their talents.
In an interview with Fast Company, Director Sue Kim tells Joe Berkowitz how the film came into existence, and how the story evolved from initially being a documentary about the cuber’s community into one about rivalry and friendship. It was through her own son’s interest in speed cubing that got her sucked into this niche world. Kim does a fine job of piecing together a neatly packed documentary. The narration comes from the key people and the families involved as oppose to guiding narrator; and I have to add Dan Vidmar provides an enchanting and fitting score.
With only a runtime of 40 minutes, it actually packs in quite a lot but I initially thought this could have easily been fleshed out more. Whilst the documentary does briefly explain the algorithms and eidetic methods of completing a cube, it doesn’t go into great detail; this isn’t a “how to” video, nor does it reference or talk about the cube itself, or explore it’s inception. Zemdegs has said there is an 90 minute version of the film, but he also adds that he prefers the initial released runtime of 40 minutes, and I can only assume it might be because the longer edit takes something away, possibly the whole point and very heart of the documentary.
What’s important here is the friendship and respected rivalry between two of the greatest cubers in the world with displays of deep emotional, companionship and great sportsmanship. This is what the film is about and really, the cube is nothing more than a prop. These two could have been the greatest chess players, or centre court rivals. It’s about winning and losing, competing and supporting your fellow competitors. It certainly makes an engaging and delightfully touching documentary. Whether you can solve a Rubik’s Cube or not, this is a worthy watch and I look forward to whatever puzzle Sue Kim tackles next.
Running Time: 7
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
Extra Bonus Points: 0