I was first introduced to The Hammer, previously titled Hamill, at AFI Fest 2010, where the film took the Audience Award. I met some of the crew and cast at an AFI reception honoring their win, and I was instantly struck by the passion the filmmakers and actors had for this film. The Hammer is a family-friendly, based-on-a-true-story, underdog-sports-story, and it opened last Thursday in limited theatrical release.
The Hammer tells the story of Matt Hamill, the first deaf wrestler to win a National Collegiate Wrestling Championship. We follow his life, from toddler-hood to adulthood, from childhood bullying to first romances to collegiate pressures, and we see the world through his perspective. As a result, both hearing audience members, as well as members of the deaf community, can enjoy this film together, without any special arrangements. The Hammer was made to be accessible to both audiences, and this decision, coupled with inventive sound editing, made viewing this film that much more of an authentic, immersive, and enjoyable experience.
The superb cast, including deaf actors Russell Harvard (There Will Be Blood), Michael Anthony Spady (Cold Case, Sympathy for Delicious), and Shoshannah Stern (Weeds, Cold Case, Lie to Me), fill this movie with palpable emotion. I also came to learn that Stern, as a deaf actress, is redefining the definition of leading lady, as she has been cast in roles written for hearing actresses over her hearing colleagues. In summation, The Hammer not only tells an underdog sports story, but it opens up a mainstream audience to a set of rising stars and to a community not often put in the spotlight. It is clear that filmmakers Eben Kostbar and Joseph McKelheer put much thought and heart into this movie.
The Hammer is best suited for an audience looking for an enjoyable and heartfelt film the whole family can enjoy. It can be found in select theaters this weekend!
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