Dir: Szabolcs Hajdu. Hungary. 2006. 100mins.

Szabolcs Hajdu's film casts a jaundicedeye over the world of sports prodigies. A grim and disenchanted portrait of howone young gymnast is almost ruined by a gruelling training programme and theinsatiable expectations of his parents, the film almost runs out of steam inthe second half, saved only by a feel-good ending that is sure to win overaudiences.

Winner of the best director prize at therecent Hungarian Film Week, the picture has already been invited to severalinternational festivals, while TV sales are its best prospects.

Partially inspired by the director's ownchildhood, the film begins with burnt-out gymnast Miklos Dongo (played by thedirector's brother Zoltan Miklos Hajdu) looking for work in Canada whileharbouring ambitions to get back in shape. He gets the job of coaching of arising star (Shewfelt), a spoiled brat who doesn't take instructions andignores his trainer, despite the latter's attempts to form a bond with theyoungster. The film intercuts this narrative with Dongo's own history, when. asa ten-year-old (Radies). He is tutored by a disciplinarian, Puma (Dinica), whowhips his pupils for the slightest error, and his subsequent escape as ateenager to become a trapeze artist.

The film is at its most compelling in theflashback section, where young Dongo and his talented but terrified friends arehumiliated, terrorized and brutalized by a trainer whose main goal is to breakdown all mental or physical resilience and mold them into docile performingmonkeys. It is sharply photographed, cut and edited, and benefits considerablyfrom young Radies' expressive face as well as the blood-curling presence ofveteran actor Dinica.

But the moment Hajdu starts drawingparallels between East and West, the script falters and stretches credibility,leaving too many questions unanswered why do Dongo's parents accept hisdecision to give up on the Olympics and join the circus' How can a seriouslyinjured gymnast regain such perfect form' Thankfully, Hadju manages to generateconsiderable sympathy for his lead character and this saves the day.

Production companies
Katapult Film, Filmpartners

International sales
Omona Films

Ivan Angelusz
Gabor Kovacs
Agnes Pataki
Peter Reich

Szabolcs Hajdu

Andras Nagy

Peter Politzer

Production design
Monika Esztan

Peace Orchestra
Gail MacDermot
Ferenc Darvas
Rimsky Korsakoff

Main cast
Zoltan Miklos Hajdu
Gheorghe Dinica
Orion Radies
Silas Radies
Kyle Shewfelt
Andor Lukats
Oana Pellea
Alexandru Rapan