Pole-vaulting champion Armand “Mondo” Duplantis might be on his way to another record, as Red Bull Studios continues selling “Born to Fly,” a documentary feature about his life.
So far, the film has been picked up by Germany (Sky), France (Canal+), Switzerland (3+ and RTS), Norway (NRK), Finland (MTV3), Spain (Movistar Plus+), Belgium (VRT) and Estonia (ERR).
“We are delighted to partner with broadcast partners throughout the world to showcase this incredible athlete and his sport to global audiences,” said Sebastian Burkhardt, head of partnerships and commercial strategy at Red Bull Studios.
Directed by Brennan Robideaux – who followed Duplantis for six years – it shows his rise from a child prodigy to world champion and Olympic gold medalist. Just in September, he set a new world record.
“Everyone in my town knew of the Duplantis family, but not much about them. The same goes for pole vaulting itself,” said the director, who was “immediately stuck by his passion.”
“I was fixated on a kid so intensely focused on one goal – and the origins of that mentality – as well as an exploration of a sport that people know so little about, especially in America. Coming from a smaller town, I can’t say I’d ever met anyone with dreams that lofty and certainly none with the skills to back it up. Mondo was truly an outlier.”
Red Bull Studios produced the film with Robideaux’s Robi Creative, BCII Production and Backflip Media Stockholm. Following theatrical release in Sweden – with public broadcaster SVT airing the broadcast premiere – it will have its North American premiere at the Austin Film Festival.
“It was always going to be a present tense journey of Mondo trying to become the best, but I also knew that the rich backstory of his and his father’s life were critical. It’s both a biopic and a coming-of-age tale,” added Robideaux.
“I went at this alone for so many years and spent whatever savings my wife and I could pull together. Many times, I’d find myself saddened when Mondo would have a setback at a major competition. Both as a friend and as someone who was struggling to get by. But those setbacks were some of the more pivotal moments in the final film,” he said, recalling the long process of making the doc.
“When you spend weeks in Europe sleeping on floors and surviving on basically a jar of peanut butter, only for Mondo to be eliminated, coming home to your tired wife who has worked extra night shifts at the hospital to pull in some cash and then having to promise her that ‘one day be this will be something’… Yeah, it was difficult to stay focused.”
Now, he is hoping “Born to Fly” will find an audience also outside of the world of sports.
“It’s a story of a father and son that also happens to document the journey of one the greatest athletes of our time. Someone who will likely dominate track and field for decades to come, and set records that fundamentally change the sport forever. There’s something for everyone, I think,” he noted.
“I became a better filmmaker along the way, that’s for sure. There’s frankly nothing worse than having to sit with an editor to review some of your original footage and realize how lacking it is. But I’m proud of it in the end, because that was my journey. I was 21 when I started filming. I’m 28 now, with my first child on the way. I have changed a lot.”
While sports are “naturally dramatic,” finding the personal story behind the drama and having someone willing to share it is even more important.
“I have not yet seen ‘Beckham,’ but I can speak of a similar phenomenon. My wife, who never had any semblance of interest in American football, watched [Netflix series with Patrick Mahomes] ‘Quarterback’ and is now a big fan, eager to catch the game on Sunday.”
“That’s pretty remarkable and I’m encouraged that the big companies and rights holders of these sports are recognizing this. All they need is a filmmaker with a vision, because there are many stories to be told. And yes, I am available!”