Nightstream Film Festival (NFF)Director Mads Hedegaard’s documentary Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest, which screened at the 2021 Nighstream Festival, has all the makings for an excellent documentary. A mysterious protagonist — check. A premise that draws from nerdy and/or modern interests, i.e. gaming — double check. Meltdowns, in this case, in the form of rage quits from difficult classic games — triple check. A battle of wills, albeit, only for one man’s self-will and bragging rights — close enough, so check.

But it is not all glitz and 8 bits in this documentary. As in any case of delving into someone’s life, the trials and tribulations are included with the wins as the film details the life and journey of one man named Kim “Cannon Arm,” so named for his prowess and speed in arcade gaming. Set in Copenhagen, Denmark, director Mads Hedegaard follows Kim, his personal friend, who he holds in high regard as an arcade game record holder and family-man wrapped in the enigmatic facade of a quietly badass gamer.

Telling his story from start to finish, Mads Hedegaard poses as both director and narrator, recounting Kim’s gamer origins in 1977, to the present-day, where he is attempting to beat a record that has since been out of his otherwise talented reach — playing a game for 100 hours straight without facing a game over screen. Having failed at a previous attempt before, and despite the potential of literally dying of gaming via prolonged lack of sleep and dehydration, Kim is determined, and thankfully, he is supported, with several of his closest friends stepping in to sustain Kim’s health during the attempt.

It is difficult not to compare Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest to something like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters simply because the premises are so similar, and what’s more, CAATAQ also has a segment on KOK star Billy Mitchell, as the film not only dives into Kim’s life but the history of competitive arcade gaming, itself. Also similarly, CAATAQ captures the excitement and sportsmanship found in video gaming, bringing life to arguably the geekiest spectator’s sport — arcade gaming. Though I enjoyed the many segments on the history of gaming, I am undecided on whether the featurettes that detailed Kim’s best friends were a distraction or a respite from the main storyline. Either way, they added historical context to both Kim’s personal story and the story of arcade gaming, as the majority of the friends are fellow classic arcade game record holders themselves.

Grit meets gaming in one marathon session of man versus machine in Mads Hedegaard’s documentary Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest. Overall I felt it was a documentary that was on the casual side — the documentary has a found footage rawness to it, unlike other documentaries that are mainly just comprised of sit-down interviews and pictures. CAATAQ is less serious in content, demeanor, and even its structure, with Hedegaard including in-depth featurettes on the supporting cast Kim’s posse of adoring friends that verge on fans, along with fun newsreels and archive footage about videogame competitions from the 1980s. I greatly enjoyed Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest, and I believe it would especially be enjoyed by those who consider themselves to be gamers and/or are nostalgic for all things 1980s, as this documentary is additionally an ode to them.

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest reviewed as part of our Nightstream Film Festival (NFF) coverage.

 

8 out of 10

 

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest
RATING: NR
Runtime: 1 Hr. 30 Mins.
Directed By:
Written By:

 

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About the Author

Adrienne Reese is a fan of movies - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and came to the horror genre by way of getting over her fear of... everything. Adrienne also writes for the Frida Cinema, and in addition to film enjoys cooking, Minesweeper, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.
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