Coney Island may have the sideshow, but Brooklyn Heights Cinema is about to introduce audiences to a strongman capable of stealing hearts.
“As soon as I met him, I knew that there was a serious film there. His personality is so layered and complex,” said director Zachary Levy, whose Strongman documentary about Stanley “Stanless Steel” Pleskun makes its Brooklyn theater debut tonight.
Manhattan-based Levy met the star of his documentary in 1999, while working as a freelance cameraman for a stunt show. The assignment landed Levy at Princeton Airport in New Jersey, where he received an indelible introduction to professional strongman Pleskun.
“He was standing in between two Cessna airplanes with his arms tied to the back of each one and the planes trying to take off in opposite directions – that was my introduction to Stan,” Levy recalled. “He was doing this physical stunt that was really great and he was also clearly sensitive in a way that I found really fascinating. It was just one of those things where you know this is a film that you have to make.”
Levy instantly hit it off with the strongman, who agreed to the film project when approached about it just a week after their initial meeting. What followed was three years of intensive filming and then an editing process that was drawn out due to Levy’s lack of funding.
“It took a long time to edit the film and a lot of that was just that I didn’t have money, so I was constantly juggling projects,” the director explained. “In those 10 years from when I started working on the film, I don’t think there was a single day that I didn’t think about it.”
Strongman premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2009, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize For Best Documentary Feature. Billed as the cinema verite story of a professional strongman, the film has since played in some 30 cities across the United States and Canada.
“It has been a huge part of my life for a long time, so it is nice that it is finally getting onto screens where people can see it,” Levy said. “People have been really touched by the film and the sense of humanity that comes out of it. For me, it is about the shared sense of who we all are. ”
The film will be playing at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema located on 70 Henry Street through Thursday, September 29th. Levy and Pleskun will hold a Q&A at tonight’s 7 pm showing, with Levy making additional appearances at the theater on Saturday, September 24th and Sunday, September 25th.