While I was growing up, running became a part of my life that was (at that point) inexhaustible. It was the most important part of high school because it was where I met friends, found success, and felt the most comfortable. For millions of people around the world, similar feelings consume them at a young age. For a significantly smaller group of people, that passion envelops their very being, becoming their identity. In Bill Gallagher’s Runner, audiences meet an individual who made running his entire existence.
Guor Mading Maker was born and raised in South Sudan, where he was regularly threatened by war and famine. His life was quite difficult, but after moving to the United States in 2001, Maker found solace in running and his ability to compete at an incredibly high level. As several obstacles befell Maker, he set goals for himself that others considered unrealistic. Now, he trains every day, striving to reach the Olympics. Runner is about the power of will and one’s ability to overcome unparalleled hurdles. Will his sacrifices pay off in the end? Will the world soon know the name of the fun-loving and strong-willed Guor Mading Maker?
Documentaries are difficult to construct as they need to be informative, yet still entertaining enough to reach and entertain audiences. So, does Gallagher have what it takes to helm a compelling documentary about a South Sudanese refugee whose life was ultimately saved by track? The narrative itself is interesting enough to hold its own, but Gallagher finds a way to keep viewers engaged through the parts that might make them usually drift off.
“…Maker found solace in running and his ability to compete at an incredibly high level.”
Video footage of Maker’s life in South Sudan is not a luxury that Gallagher and the crew have. They could have chosen to simply fill the first portion of the documentary with interviews and hope the audience accepts the talking heads nature of documentaries. Instead, they could tell his childhood through animation. It makes sense to show portions of his life this way, as it makes it easier for audiences to sympathize with his struggles. This decision is perfect, as it guides the story and viewers into Maker’s world.
Guor Mading Maker possesses an enormous amount of vigor, perseverance, and humility. His personality makes for an engaging subject of a documentary. Runner itself is entertaining and informative, but it is the titular runner that makes the movie possible. He seems like the type of person everyone wants to be friends with, wants to confide in, and never doubts. His ability to overcome any and all problems thrown his way is amazing. Gallagher beautifully captures Maker’s intentions and his successes through interviews and enthralling images.
From the opening moments of Runner, audiences are thrown into a world that contains familiar and unfamiliar elements. Gallagher tells Maker’s story in incredibly exciting ways and enlightens the audience to his extraordinary journey. The final product is riveting, enjoyable, and heart-wrenching from beginning to end. Guor Mading Maker is an inspirational, one-of-a-kind talent, and everything one might need to know about him is captured in Gallagher’s exhilarating documentary.
"…the power of will and one's ability to overcome unparalleled hurdles."