On a cold February morning, Chris Schoeck walks along Coney Island’s boardwalk. He remembers his last visit here as a boy and can’t help but feel the change in atmosphere. The air is devoid of amusement; stores are locked up tight for winter, rides covered and still. The frigid wind whipping off the Atlantic stings his face and the warm rays of sunlight are as distant as his memories. “It’s going to be a very different place in the summertime…”
Bending Steel, a deeply moving and inspiring documentary from filmmakers Dave Carroll and Ryan Scafuro, explores the life of 43 year-old Chris Schoeck, a Queens, NY native who is training to become a professional Oldetime Strongman. The story follows Chris’ journey from his early days training in a small basement storage unit, to his very first performance on the big stage at New York’s historic Coney Island. Alongside his trainer Chris Rider, he meets living legends and heroes within the community–and for the first time ever–he gets a taste of acceptance, something that, since his early childhood, has always felt just out of reach. Suddenly Chris sees an opportunity to finally stand out, to make a name for himself, to find his place in life.
An endearing yet introverted character; Chris has few friends and has always rejected the need for human interaction. Through his search for recognition and acceptance among this small yet passionate strength subculture, Chris faces his own fears and insecurities, many of which are revealed for the first time as the cameras roll. A remarkable innocence is uncovered. The film bears witness to a determined middle-aged man finally coming out of his shell, shedding both physical and social limitations that have held him back his entire life. What results is an intimate and touching story of one mans quest for fulfillment and happiness in a world he has never quite felt a part of.