ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Brave in the Attempt (2015)

Directed by Fritz Mitchell

As the Special Olympics are underway, ESPN has made a good marketing ploy by releasing this short film on the subject of Eunice Kennedy-Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, and the founder of the Special Olympics. ESPN has often aligned the release of their 30 for 30 films with sporting events, and it makes sense, but none of them seem to transcend the moment quite like this one does. It wouldn’t matter when Brave in the Attempt was released, it would be just as powerful. Other films would suffer from offseason disinterest, but Fritz Mitchell’s new entry into the series is too human to find that pitfall.
Mitchell takes us on a journey which sees both discrimination and shame laid upon those with intellectual disabilities. Eunice Kennedy had an older sister with an intellectual disability, and saw warehouses full of neglected, ostracized people, thrown to the side to rot away. The film draws parallels to the Civil Rights movement, and is certainly a celebratory documentary, featuring plenty of those close to Eunice to lay praise at her remembrance. Some may see this as too perfect, and I’m sure Eunice wasn’t perfect, the parallel overstated, but the reality is Eunice gave of her privilege for the betterment of these people, and that is worth celebrating.
But what also makes Eunice, and in fact this film, so endearing is her spirit. The film’s name is derived from a gladiatorial battle cry, claiming if they do not win the battle, at least they will be brave in the attempt to win. For Eunice, the Special Olympics was a great vehicle through which the world could see the ability of people with intellectual disabilities, and bringing them to the spotlight helped bring reform in America and numerous other countries. But at the heart of Eunice and the Special Olympics is competition, and there is a reason not everyone gets a medal, that this is not a participation event. This is sport, this is competition, and the thrill of victory can be experienced by anyone, including these inspiring and capable athletes.
Eunice was certainly brave in her attempt, and attempt that has succeeded.
*** – Very Good

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