There appears to be a new trend in filmmaking: up-and-coming bodybuilders are grabbing video cameras and creating documentaries highlighting their rigorous workout regimens. Last year, Boston-based bodybuilding champ Paul DeSimone created the extraordinary production The Underground Lifting Video, which laced his iron pumping with wonderful absurdist humor. Now comes a fascinating feature called “Feldman2” created by and starring Brett and Kraig Feldman, respectively the 2000 and 2003 NPC Teen National Bodybuilding Champion. While this film is not as funny as the DeSimone offering, it nonetheless provides a compelling behind-the-scenes look at what is involved in building the musclebound physiques required for bodybuilding championships.
“Feldman2” follows the six weeks leading up to Kraig Feldman’s pursuit of his sport’s championship. His older brother Brett is both the film’s host and the trainer behind this endeavor, offering a running commentary on the exercises, diets and thought process required to push Kraig to the championship. Much of what occurs is brutal, not only in the demands on Kraig’s body at the gym but in the astonishing menu devised to get him into competition shape: six meals a day, with at least two steaks and chicken breasts daily plus repeated servings of broccoli and sweet potatoes. The diet is supplemented with laxatives, which Kraig unhappily notes requires bathroom stops of at least “40 times a day.” This is all washed down with four gallons of water daily. Fortunately, the viewer is spared the bathroom visits.
The means to an end brings an amazing result: in the competition which he captures, Kraig is literally the picture of male physical perfection. His physique could be compared without exaggeration to Michelangelo’s David, and immediately afterwards he is snatched up for photo shoots by several fitness publications. Yet the road to this achievement is unpleasant and highly demanding. At one point, Kraig divulges that he feels “absolutely disgusted” by what he is putting himself through and the punishment his body and lifestyle is enduring in order to achieve his sport’s goal.
Although Kraig’s regimen can be considered as borderline masochism, “Feldman2” is actually a lot of fun to watch thanks to the brothers’ distinct charm. Brett is clearly more comfortable on camera, serving primarily as narrator in explaining Kraig’s diet and training schedule. He is also refreshingly funny in offering tips on bodybuilding posing (he recommends not to roll one’s arms while posing “because it makes you look stupid!) and he even goofs on his brother by having him strike a pose for too long before remembering the command of “relax!” Kraig is initially uncomfortable on camera, often looking off-screen in distraction, but over the course of the film he regains his confidence and eventually becomes something of a ham when the camera is on him, complete with winking and bad jokes. “Feldman2” also shows Kraig’s photo shoots, in which he handles himself with a maturity and ease that belies his youth, and it is not difficult to imagine he will enjoy success in his desired career as a model (his brother Brett put bodybuilding on hold to concentrate on becoming a physician’s assistant while dabbling in powerlifting competitions).
Many bodybuilding documentaries are simply endless footage of big guys lifting weights and striking exaggerated poses. “Feldman2” is a documentary with muscle, but also with brain and heart. Brett and Kraig Feldman are wonderfully charming guys to hang out with, and as first-time filmmakers they possess unusual talent and skill. Their unique film is a blast of sincerity, intelligence and fun. Bodybuilding is often considered as a fringe sport and even a freak show, but this endeavor could not have better ambassadors than the Feldmans.