Icarus of Pittsburgh

During the 1979 AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers, a son endeavors to fly to heaven to visit his dead father.

This is the third chapter in the trilogy of tragedy – a series of films by Kirk Hostetter and Evan Mather that examine man-children and their unwillingness to transition into adulthood: the last grasps they will endeavor to keep their childhood from slipping away. In Icarus of Pittsburgh, Archie McNally engineers a plan to fly to heaven using a wetsuit, skateboard helmet, swimming goggles, athletic supporter, and a tank of helium.

Icarus of Pittsburgh tells McNally’s tragic story in a documentary style using a combination of live-action interviews, animated sequences, faux Super-8, motion graphics, and re-created newspapers.

The film was shot in the summer of 2001 in and around Pittsburgh and upstate New York, composited using Adobe After Effects and edited with Final Cut Pro on an iMac G4 workstation. Icarus of Pittsburgh played a number of film festivals including 1 Reel Film Fest 7, Empire State Film Festival, 29th Northwest Film and Video Festival (Honorable Mention/Narrative), MicroCineFest (Special Jury Citation), Durango Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, and the 2003 Dallas Video Festival. In addition to being broadcast on The Documentary Channel, Icarus of Pittsburgh was recognized at the 2003 Sundance Online Film Festival as the Second Runner-Up (Short Subject).

On Sunday, January 7 1979, Archie McNally became the Pittsburgh Steelers most famous fan when he inflated a helium suit and floated high over the pitch in an attempt to rejoin his father in heaven. Or did he? Web wonder director Evan Mather, teamed here with live action partner Kirk Hostetter, has cooked up a bittersweet mockumentary cunningly disguised as a pathos-packed oddball biography. Mather’s faux-naif animations illustrate the epic feat (“I soared over the Heinz Ketchup Sign, enraptured by a frozen fountain in the park”) while Juuso Auvinen’s delicate piano score tugs at the heartstrings. Hands down the strangest and most visually audacious film – of any length – you’ll see this month.

The Guardian

***** – You think you’re a hardcore Steelers fan? Well, you’re not as hardcore as Archie McNally and his ‘daddy.’ Using computer animation and interview footage with Archie, this film tells Archie’s tale of when in the middle of a 1979 AFC Championship game, he strapped on a couple of helium filled wet suits and attempted to fly to the heavens to let his ‘daddy’ know how his favorite team was doing. Fuckin’ hysterical!

Film Threat

Strange and brilliant.


On a cold Sunday in January, 1979, Archie McNally became a legendary figure, floating high above Forbes Field in a single, brilliant gesture of love. Part absurdist history lesson, part modern myth, Icarus of Pittsburgh interlaces memory, family, dementia and football in a meeting of The Twilight Zone and ESPN. A true flight-of-fancy that celebrates obsession.

29th Northwest Film and Video Festival

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s