In case you missed it, Sunday night saw the Canadian Premier League premier Rise Above: The Island Games Documentary. The 48-minute film details the ups and downs of 2020 in the CPL, from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic right through to the Final of the Island Games, with some fascinating behind-the-scenes looks at all eight clubs and life in the bubble on Prince Edward Island. The documentary, written and directed by Max Bell and Offside Creative, opens with scenes of the sporting world shutting down in March. All eight CPL stadiums across the country sit empty, with uncertainty grasping the whole soccer community. As we know, though the CPL didn't stay dark forever -- after a cross-Canada search to find a suitable venue, the league settled on Charlottetown in PEI to begin the 2020 season in August.
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Rise Above details all eight CPL clubs arriving in the PEI bubble, offering a glimpse of daily life for players and staff. The documentary takes us behind the scenes of the Island Games, with scenes of CPLers relaxing or sharing meals together amid the unforgiving competition. Atlético Ottawa gets some special attention, with the Island Games being their first real experience in the CPL. The documentary breaks down how Atlético Madrid approached the league to launch an expansion team, as well as how they rapidly put a squad together before heading into the bubble. We get a special view of Ottawa's bench during the first game in club history, erupting when Mo Kourouma scores the team's first-ever goal, and the documentary follows them through their full seven-game outing. Rise Above comes to the middle of the first round, when the CPL paused along with the rest of the sporting world to make a gesture of solidarity against racism in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. The documentary offers powerful imagery of CPL players standing in unison at the field, joining unanimously to protest against discrimination and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The film also offers a reminder of how dramatic the end of the first round was -- with seven of eight teams still in contention, all four contests over the last weekend were excellent theatre. Marco Bustos sits down with the documentary crew to reflect on Pacific FC's season-saving win over FC Edmonton, and it's apparent how much his late goal meant to him. Rise Above does well to capture the emotion of the Island Games, and the stakes of every match. The nerves and pressure can be felt in every dressing room -- as can the drama and impact of a good pre-game speech. Both Bobby Smyrniotis and Stephen Hart get extended time in the spotlight, delivering powerful pep talks before make-or-break matches (plus, if you look closely enough, you might get a peek at some of either coach's tactics on the whiteboards behind them). Overall, the CPL's documentary is a treat -- it's equal parts a fun behind-the-scenes look at our favourite CPL players, and a dramatic narrative of the grueling six-week tournament. Click the player above to watch Rise Above: The Island Games Documentary.