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Documentary Playlist: Go All the Way

“If you’re not gonna go all the way, why go at all?”    — Joe Namath

The image above is from the 1896 Summer Olympics. Held in Athens, Greece, it was the first international Olympic Games held in the modern era. The image depicts some of the runners competing in the marathon race, a long-distance running event of 42 kilometers (26 miles). Though the fastest runner wins, marathon running requires months and months of training that doesn’t necessarily build one’s speed – but one’s endurance.

Mastery in any endeavor requires endurance. According to reputable author/curator Sarah Lewis, mastery is a word we don’t use often and is not the same as perfectionism — an inhuman aim motivated by a concern with how others view us. Nor is it the same as success — an event-based victory based on a peak point, a punctuated moment in time. As Lewis said, “Mastery is not merely commitment to a goal, but to a curved-line, constant pursuit.”

Whether it’s weight-lifting or motor-racing, pastry-making or magazine publishing, here are 6 films about people who are going all the way, who are striving everyday to be better than they were yesterday.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
As Jiro Ono’s son faces the pressure of stepping into his father’s shoes and taking over the legendary restaurant, Jiro relentlessly pursues his lifelong quest to create the perfect piece of sushi.

Kings of Pastry
Every 4 years, France’s top pastry chefs gather in Lyon for the World Cup of pastry – the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. This film follows 3 long days of chocolate sculptures, cream puffs that look like crown jewels, and grown men crying over cracked sugar.

Pumping Iron
Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals both the physicality and psychology of bodybuilding. He attributes his bodybuilding success not to his muscles, but to his mind.  

An account of the vibrant life and sudden death of Brazilian racing driver, Ayrton Senna. Meet this spiritual and very competitive man who believed in pushing the limits further and further.

The Armstrong Lie
Biking legend and 7-time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong went to extremely great lengths to win. Not only did he exercise every day, but he doped illegally and secretly, building a myth around himself that turned out to be one of the biggest lies in sports history.

The September Issue
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her team of editors set out to create the most important issue of the year. Though Vogue magazine is unrivalled in the fashion industry, there’s always room for improvement. The stakes are high, and Wintour’s standards are even higher.