Zion

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Zion TV Poster Image
Exceptional short docu tells teen's story of perseverance.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Zion's inspirational story is a study in persistence, determination: a teen who overcame incredible adversity to challenge his own limits, others' expectations. References to physical and emotional abuse in his past, struggles with self-image and destructive behavior, but what sticks with viewers are his victories, not his losses. In one scene, Zion's adoptive mother shares a prayer for her son.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not only does Zion not allow his disability to stop him from pursuing his dreams in wrestling, he also refuses to entertain excuses in other areas of his life. He doesn't believe he can't do things, he just knows that his physical limitations mean he needs to find a different way to do them. Zion's role models, including his longtime coach and his adoptive mother, feature prominently in his ability to overcome odds.

Violence

Many scenes of competitive wrestling.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zion is an award-winning documentary short film about a teen who overcame physical disabilities and an abusive childhood in the foster care system to win in competitive high school wrestling and in life. The story is incredibly inspiring but also brutally honest, both in talk of Zion's challenging past and in imagery of how he navigates the world on his hands and fits in with his able-bodied peers and teammates. Zion is a remarkable role model to those who know his story, and he credits his coach and his adoptive mom with inspiring him to live life without limitations. This moving documentary celebrates his resilience, persistence, and determination to pursue his dreams in spite of his challenges.

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What's the story?

Zion Clark was born with caudal regression syndrome, leaving him without legs. His mother put him up for adoption, but he wound up bouncing from one foster care family to another for years, often suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his guardians. His saving grace came in an unlikely place: the wrestling mat. Introduced to the sport at a young age, he eventually met coach Gil Donahue, who helped him craft a unique strategy for competing with opponents twice his stature. As Zion's success in the sport rose, so did his self-esteem and his relationships with his peers.

Is it any good?

This evocative, inspiring story is an utterly superb watch. ZION's humble, soft-spoken nature totally contradicts his enormous triumphs in life and in wrestling, and that makes him all the more intriguing to viewers. It also means that a good portion of the documentary is spent hearing from people other than Zion himself, most notably the coach he credits with helping him adapt wrestling techniques to his unique abilities and compete where logic says he shouldn't be able to. Zion is a story that will touch every viewer who watches and will change the way you perceive ability diversity.

That said, there is one thing lacking: more. More details, more insight, more TIME. This documentary runs all of 10 minutes in length, just enough to get you emotionally invested before cutting you off with a brief postscript about Zion's enrollment at Kent State Tuscarawas. You're left wondering about his wrestling experience at the collegiate level, his plans for the future, his family life, and his possible transition to the kind of mentor he found in his coach. But there are worse problems to have than wanting more time with this inspiring young man, especially when you're watching with your own kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about where Zion gets his emotional strength. Do you think he ever considered giving up on wrestling or on bettering himself? Even though he's never known anything different, would it be natural for him to want to be "normal"? What everyday activities would pose challenges for him that they wouldn't for you?

  • In what ways have positive role models changed the course of Zion's life? How do we draw inspiration from people we see as role models? What strengths do you identify in Zion's character? How, specifically, does he embody courage and determination? Are you inspired by his story?

  • How do we adapt to diversity of ability, of ideology, of temperament in our society? In what ways does exposure to diversity encourage greater compassion and respect? Is there such a thing as "normal"? Why or why not?

TV details

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