Richard LeBlanc, in a sense, knows not of what he speaks. The writer, co-director and co-producer of Cubers, a doc about elite Rubik's Cube solvers premiering at the AtlanticFilm Festival, has yet to conquer thepuzzle himself.
"I'm definitely an outsider," LeBlanc says, "and these Cubers let me into their community and into their lives. It became a bit of a joke that I don't solve the Cube because I just don't have that skill."
LeBlanc is on the phone from Toronto to talk about Cubers, co-directed and produced by Halifax's Walter Forsyth, which profiles enthusiasts from as far away as Israel and France, and portrays their trials and tribulations at world championships for speed Rubik's Cube solving.
The filmmaker had the Cube on his mind for many years. Originally determined to make a mockumentary about the role the Rubik's Cube played in an old family story, LeBlanc decided to take a more sincere approach when that project fell through. Appropriately enough, it was Seven Towns Ltd., the license holders of the Rubik's Cube, that sparked the notion of making a documentary, after LeBlanc wrote them to ask their permission to use the Cube in his film."They wrote back saying that yes it would be OK, it would be a pleasure for us to let you use the Cube, we will arrange the paperwork through our lawyer at no cost, and if you are ever interested in doing further work on this, the name of the person organizing the world championships in Toronto this summer is Dan Gosbee, and here is his contact information.
"I immediately phoned Dan and went to meet him that afternoon, and as soon as I met him I thought, 'There is a documentary here.' And that's how it started."
Cubersfits into the genre of documentaries that LeBlanc calls the "competition doc"---films about people with very niche talents and a desire to be recognized for them, while the viewer becomes caught up in the subject's pursuits. True to form, Cubersgets you involved in the characters' personal lives before it drops you into the contest. LeBlanc perfectly articulates the underlying motifs of most competition docs when he talks about the themes that drive the film.
"For me, it was always the themes of obsession and the need to belong. I think that drove these people," LeBlanc says. "From an outside perspective they may seem like misfits, but when they get together, you see a cohesive community of competitors exchanging moves and algorithms.
"Some people are at these competitions only to be there and to get their best personal time. They know they aren't going to win but they are there to get their best personal time and to spend time with people who are like them. I think that is universal, the search for your community in theworld. It's something we all do. It's a basichuman need."
Even though Cuberscontains all the crowd-pleasing hallmarks of a competition doc, LeBlanc's allegiance is to the Cubing community as a whole.
"I had to respect the Cubing community because they gave me so much. I told them on the first day that I am making a movie for the Cubing community; I am making a movie about the Cubing community, but that I am making a movie for people who don't Cube."
Two of the champion Cubers will be at the premiere, and will host workshops on solving the Rubik's Cube on Saturday, September 13 (2-5pm, Park Lane, main mall level). While LeBlanc has promised his subjects that he will conquer the Cube by the film's premiere, the audience is only obliged to watch the movie.