Review: The Speed Cubers (Documentary Short)

The Speed Cubers (2020)
Dir: Sue Kim

What is speed cubing?
Competitive Rubik’s cube solving. Maybe that sounds boring if you’re the kind of person who takes a while to solve one of these puzzles, but when you realise that speed cubers solve them in under 10 seconds, you understand that the film isn’t going to be slowed down by watching lengthy competing.  

When did this come out?
I’d heard it mentioned in a podcast as a recommendation earlier in 2020, and so when it popped up on my Netflix at the end of the year I jumped on the opportunity to watch it, especially as it was shortlisted for an Academy Award. 

Where do they compete?
This film follows the build-up to the 2019 world championship in Australia, where competitors ‘battled’ in person. These events are far more frequent and widespread than I ever realised, and have even been able to adapt to being held virtually in the Covid-era. 

Who does this film focus on?
This is the story of two people in particular. Feliks Zemdegs, reigning champion for many events and holder of world records, and Max Park, his younger rival. These two are the only people to hold the world record average of five 3x3x3 solves for a decade.

Why is it so enjoyable?
It’s a sporting rivalry story, but with a bit of a twist. What’s the twist? Simply, the friendship between these competitors. Feliks who appears to be neuro-typical is so supportive of the upcoming rival poised to take his records, willing him on to win, cheering his successes. I have little to no interest in solving Rubik’s cubes but I really loved this short documentary, it made my top 10 things I watched last year, simply because of how uplifting it was to see friendly competition like this.

How can I watch this?
It’s widely available to stream on Netflix. It’ll take less than an hour of your time and you will be surprised at how uplifting and interesting it is. 

This was shortlisted in the Documentary Short category for the 2021 Academy Awards but in the end, didn’t make the final list of nominees, but it’s still a great documentary and one I enjoyed far more than some that were nominated.  There are tears, it’s emotional, and with such a fittingly short runtime, it’s well worth watching if you want to fill less than an hour with something that will lift your spirits. 

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