Based on the results of a quick IMDb search, there are exactly zero feature-length films -- documentary or otherwise -- about water polo. Now, since that search fails to turn up Freedom’s Fury, a documentary about that very subject that will make its world premiere at Tribeca next week, it’s safe to say that the IMDB's query wasn’t perfect. The fact remains, however, that films that take water polo as their subjects are few and far between, at least in part because of the great difficulty of making the sport interesting to an audience beyond its participants. In the case of Freedom’s Fury, that obstacle is overcome via a focus on a single match, and the revolutionary politics that surrounded it.

In late November, 1956, the water polo teams from Hungary and the Soviet Union met in an Olympic semi-final match that was of almost unimaginable significance to the players involved, particularly those from Hungary. Just weeks before, the Hungarian people had engaged in the first popular revolution ever staged against Soviet power. Initially able to drive out the Soviet troops sent to restore order, Hungarians briefly lived in a nationa that was miraculously free, if only for a few days. On November 4, however, a Soviet invasion force descended on the country and, within a week, had crushed the invasion, killing or wounding tens of thousands of Hungarian citizens. Because they were held for weeks at a Soviet airport, the Hungarian team found out what had happened at home only after they arrived in Australia for the Olympic games -- when they departed, there had been a sense of home in the air, and a feeling of freedom for the first time in decades. That semi-final game against the Soviets became a political battle fought in the water, with furious Hungarian players cheered on by a sell-out crowd drawn, as always, to the underdog. (Ironically, Hungary was considered the world’s dominant water polo power; because of political events, however, they were seen as the underdog in their match against the Soviets.)