October 20, 2011
Putting 'The Hammer' Down
Inspiring true story of deaf wrestler/fighter hits limited theaters next week
Hamill, who recently retired from the UFC circuit, was the first deaf person to win a national championship in college wrestling. In fact, he won three NCAA titles while competing for the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1990s -- an amazing feat for anyone, much less a deaf man.
The film, starring deaf actor Russell Harvard in the title role, follows Hamill's story from childhood, from his diagnosis as a toddler, through his boyhood -- when his mother wanted to send him to a school for the deaf, but his grandfather, who helped to raise him, insisted on Matt going to a "regular" school -- and then through high school, where he excelled at the sport. He won a full scholarship to Purdue, but flunked out.
After taking some time off, he then enrolled at RIT, which has a large population of deaf students. Hamill initially had trouble adjusting to an environment of almost solely deaf people; having grown up in a hearing world, he preferred to talk and read lips, but at RIT, most of the students preferred to communicate by sign language. For a viewer with hearing, the film doubles as a fascinating look into their world, and director Oren Kaplan uses some nifty editing and audio tricks to help the viewer to better appreciate what it must be like to be deaf.
But what stands out most in the film is Hamill's perseverance and determined focus; he arrived on campus determined to win a national championship, and doggone if he didn't end up winning it not just once, but thrice. If it's coming to your neck of the woods, it's worth checking out -- or at least renting some day on video.
Here's the trailer: