Directed by: Jeff Petry & Nathan Drillot
Produced by: Jeff Petry & Nathan Drillot
Released: 2016 Educational release
Running Time: 97 min
Robert Gagno is currently one of the top ten pinball players in the world. But there’s more to him than just being a pinball wizard. At the age of three, Robert was diagnosed with autism.
Through the international pinball competition circuit he's found a community that has helped him develop self-worth, social skills and confidence in new environments. At the same time Robert has showed many that he's more than the label society places on him. Yet Robert struggles to balance all his growing real world responsibilities and his pinball status. There is no bigger reward in the game of pinball than Wizard Mode. Will he be able to overcome the challenges to unlock his own Wizard Mode?
Reviews / Quotes:
“Wizard Mode… derives its power from the intimacy it achieves with Gagno, and its clever, restrained use of pinball imagery… Gagno emerges here not just as a pinball magician, but as a worthy hero.” - Maclean’s
“It's a testament to the directors' skill and Gagno's charisma that we walk out of the theatre feeling like we've really gotten to know him. He's charming, likeable, and instantly captivating, as are his parents, whose affection and support are palpable and warm the movie. Wizard Mode is both an engaging portrait of Gagno and a look into the fascinating world of competitive pinball.” - The Tyee
“Wizard Mode illustrates the major defining characteristics of its subject’s life expertly and with a great deal of empathy and warmth… In that respect, it’s a brilliant story… It’s a feel good movie that earns all of its good vibes through a nuanced and balanced approach to difficult to understand material.” - Toronto Film Scene
"[Wizard Mode is] a beautiful portrait of Gagno and the difficulties he faces as an autistic person in his 20s." - Digital Journal
“The feelgood Wizard Mode traces his rise through the pinball ranks as he not only becomes one of the top 10 players in North America, but also finds independence away from the blinking lights and flashing fippers of classic machines like The Addams Family and Funhouse.” - The Georgia Straight
Recommended by Video Librarian
In the world of competitive pinball, Robert Gagno, a Canadian youth, is ranked among the top, and here the camera follows him as he competes furiously in "Pinburgh"--the world's largest silverball face-off, held in Pennsylvania--to maintain or better his scores. Gagno's backstory is particularly interesting: born autistic, Robert did not even start speaking fully until the age of seven. A loner child, pinball has become his chief method of interacting with the world (although as a boy he did develop a habit of spontaneous hugging). Robert's nurturing parents have gifted him with several full-sized machined for training and fun, but they worry about him being able to live independently. Robert himself says that he refuses to be defined by autism, and there is a not-so-subtle parallel made by Canadian filmmakers Nathan Drillot and Jeff Petry between Gagno striving to maintain focus in pinball tournaments and facing day-to-day challenges of applying for jobs and maintaining relationships (the obvious connection with The Who's fictitious disables pinball maestro/messiah Tommy is only made during the closing credits). The excitement of the world championship pinball is hard to capture in narrative form, but Gagno's human-interest story effectively provides the film's spark. An uplifting portrait, this is recommended. Aud: C, P. (C. Cassady)