Hi I'm Rogert Biebert, here to review the latest Sweat Elite video titled, "Sub 2:20 Marathon Project E4 - Kenyan Fartlek"
This is the first Kenyan video I've viewed in quite a while, more importantly, the first film with a positive message about runner's sexuality to be set in Kenya. Morality is a commonly used excuse wielded like a cudgel against sexual rights at worst, mere representation at best. Why is runners sexuality being seen in a positive light such a “moral” threat?
The unnamed director seems to create a lyrical ode to finding a kindred spirit amidst an uncaring majority by using Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story, “Jambula Tree” as the basis. The cinematography is as lively, colorful and engaging as the hairstyle of of our main protagonist and the boisterous object his affection, the dusty track. Several times, lens flares from the Sun invade the frame containing our hero, presenting him as the center of the running universe. The astonishingly festive coif becomes a complementary personality symbol, the yin to the grungy yang of the style of american trained runners.
The way this film dares to publicly gaze at our hero reveals a mixture of the naïveté in handling a first love and a teenager’s penchant for defiance. Our hero returns the gaze even more forcefully, which could scare young viewers. His feelings are not tolerated by society, and while his story has a simplicity that feels at times a bit too light, he never shies away from the inherent danger lovers who are runners face. The canvas of the screen is often used as a representation of feeling rather than narrative, with scenes cropped so we can only see pieces of the action. It makes the most intimate moments seem larger-than-life, which is exactly how they must feel to our heroes.
This nameless man—the video never reveals what way he leans sexually—becomes a rather blatant symbol of the country’s homophobia. But, late in the video, my expectations are upended in a scene where he quietly sits next to a battered, heartbroken track. As the two share the frame, neither making eye contact with the other, I hoped for some exchanged words. Instead, the scene ends in silence and I realized that the visual of a shared solidarity was more powerful than anything that could have been said in that moment. This is a bittersweet yet ultimately positive depiction of young, forbidden love that radiates empathy by showing how misguided it is to be against this kind of devotion. The director draws blood with a scene that left me fuming, but also brings out a surprising level of understanding.
To feel seen is a potent, potentially life-changing emotion, and only those who were never in the dark would have a moral problem with it. Sweat Elite makes this serious point quite effectively, never losing its ebullience.
Four Stars out of Four