MUDBLOODS Interview

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Oct 14, 2014

Posted by: Brad Ausrotas

News

We reviewed MUDBLOODS, a documentary about the UCLA Bruins Quidditch team and their dream of competing in the 2011 Quidditch World Cup in NYC. It was a pretty great film. Today, MUDBLOODS is officially available to the world, with a digital release available at mudbloodsmovie.com. We recently had the chance to do a Q&A with the director of MUDBLOODS, Farzad Sangari. Without further adieu, here are his answers to all of our pressing questions:

1) How do you think the Quidditch scene differs from other subcultures?

Sub-cultures in general have a lot in common because they are isolated as being different or “other” than mainstream culture.  I think what makes quidditch unique however is that the Harry Potter series is such a recognizable part of mainstream culture.  Everybody knows what is, or at the very least has heard about it.  They might not know what quidditch is, but they know where it came from and that immediately affects their view of it – either positively or negatively.   I found there wasn’t much middle ground.  I think what differentiates the quidditch scene is that in the face of this cultural phenomenon, they are looking to distinguish themselves as something distinct.   Added on top of that is the fact that they are also fighting for legitimacy as a sport within the sporting world.  In the end, I think the quidditch sub-culture, like any group that is marginalized, labeled and misunderstood, deserves a chance to be presented in a true and honest way.

2) What challenges did you face as an outsider trying to capture this form of fan culture?

I think another thing that makes quidditch unique is how open and inviting the people associated with it are.  They actively desire to share quidditch with anyone who is interested because they know they’ve created something special.  Being an outsider was something I was initially very concerned about because I didn’t want the players, organizers and fans to feel like I was coming at it with any pre-determined agenda.   That’s happened to them in the past, which makes how open and inviting they continue to be even more revealing about their character.   However, once the people I met understood where I was coming from, I developed such strong relationships with them that there were no issues in terms of access.

3) What was it like making the film, knowing there was a very real chance that the Bruins wouldn’t win the World Cup?

This was the first time a good number of west coast teams went to the World Cup, so there was definitely a risk that the team might not do well.  We didn’t really know what would happen.  Nobody knew, but that’s what made it exciting.  We also got lucky in who the team was matched up against and how dramatic the games were.  If this wasn’t a documentary, and UCLA played the teams they ended up playing, and the results ended up the way they did, I think it would actually feel fake.  But the fact that it was real made the journey that much more incredible.
4) Similarly, how do you think the narrative of defeat and perseverance in the face of loss speaks to the greater quality of Quidditch?

One of the things that most impressed me about quidditch was the level of sportsmanship I observed not just on each team, but between the teams.  All the teams are part of this larger community so they share a level of understanding with each other that supersedes the outcome.  That doesn’t mean they don’t want to win because they very clearly do, and they are willing to sacrifice themselves for their teammates in remarkable ways.  Yet, because of the idiosyncratic nature of the game, and also I think because of its connection to Harry Potter, there’s a strong level of respect even amongst the teams that play the hardest against each other.   In terms of dealing specifically with defeat, I think the UCLA team (and I think this stems from the way Tom Marks, their captain, ran the team) provides a wonderful example of how sports approached in this manner can shape your life in positive and meaningful ways.

5) What has the reception to the title of the film been like?

Overall the reception to the title has been positive especially among quidditch players who are very self-aware and approach their sport with as much humor as competitiveness.  I understand that some fans of the series have expressed concern about the title.  They are as passionate and protective about the series as quidditch players are about their sport because both of these things have had a profound impact on their lives.  However, it’s important to note that while the series and the sport are connected, they are also distinct.  Moreover, if you watch the film, you will see right away that we are not using “mudblood” in its original, derogatory tone.   It is being adapted to fit the needs of this film in a new context in the same way that this group of brash yet imaginative individuals have adapted a fictional game based on magical elements into a new, real-life sport.

6) Any funny stories from filming/behind the scenes?

One thing that was an inside joke for us as we were shooting in New York is that the location of the World Cup, Randall’s Island, is a place with a lot of athletic fields that also hosts large outdoor events and concerts.  Yet the island also happens to be the home of a massive sewage treatment plant as well as a psychiatric hospital.  Both of these are very near the fields where they held the tournament.  We thought this (especially the psychiatric hospital) was an amusing backdrop for an event where thousands of spectators came to watch hundreds of quidditch players run around on broomsticks.  I tried to put as many shots of the hospital into the film as I could.

7) Was everybody with the Bruins/IQA cool about the idea of doing the documentary? Were there any fears of misrepresentation?

I think I answered this with question #2 … but overall the team was very cool.  This is because of the way Tom brought us in.  We essentially became part of the team.  We were at every practice, scrimmage, and event they had, so by the time we went to New York with them, the team had already accepted us as part of the group.

8) Anything you wish could have made it into the film but had to be cut?

We actually have some extra content available at mudbloodsmovie.com of things we could not fit into the movie for a variety of reasons.  My personal favorite is the Wizards With Attitude clip.  This is a little more background on the wizard rap group in the film.

9) You obviously spent a huge amount of time on this film. So after everything, how has Quidditch, and perhaps the greater Harry Potter fandom even, changed the way you view the world? Has it?

This experience has had a big impact on me personally.  I was exceedingly impressed by the passion I witnessed from everyone involved in the film. This includes quidditch players, organizers and fans of both the sport and of Harry Potter.  All of the people I met shared a willingness not only to commit themselves to what they cared deeply about, but to do so openly and without reservation.  It’s easy to be moved and inspired by people with that kind of confidence.

10) I heard Harry and the Potters playing in the background of the film a few times. Did you actually get a chance to see them play at all, or was this pure happenstance?

This was more by happenstance.  There was a stage at World Cup V and we did shoot some stuff from the performers who attended; however, my shooting partner, Jason Knutzen, and I were primarily focused on getting everything we could from the three storylines we were following; the team, Alex and Katie.

We’d like to thank Mr. Sangari for taking the time to answer all of our questions. You can learn more about the film at mudbloodsmovie.com.





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