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Bigger, Stronger, Faster delivers

Local man has strong links to steroid movie
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO / BSS FILMS, 
From left, Jim Czarnecki, Alex Buono, Chris Bell and Tamsin Rawady pose for a picture at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Czarnecki, Buono and Rawady are all partners in producing the film, “Bigger, Stronger, Faster.” Bell, Buono and Rawady all played a part in writing the film as well.

Three and a half years of research, reconnecting a friendship from film school and making it to the Sundance Film Festival is a string of events Alex Buono never thought would happen.

Buono, one of the writers and producers of the movie, 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster,' has accomplished all this and more.

Buono is a Lake Oswego native and class of 1991 Jesuit High School graduate, and knew since grade school he wanted to make films.

He attended film school at University of Southern California where he met Chris Bell. The two made a short film together in school and sealed their professional fate. Later in 2005, they saw each other again on the street by chance, Buono said.

Starting in 2004, the Jose Conseco and Barry Bonds steroid controversies highlighted sports news and were the topic of many conversations Bell and Buono had together.

These conversations sparked interest in steroids for Buono and included a family connection for Bell.

Bell and his two brothers, Mike and Mark, were involved with the power-lifting lifestyle and were, in fact, steroid users themselves, Buono said.

Growing up, Bell and his brothers idolized popular muscle builders. This admiration brought up the question of role models in sports.

After deciding on the topic for his film, Buono put in three and a half years of research before the movie was even made.

The movie stemmed from the personal connection with the Bell family, Buono said, and is one of the main focuses of the film.

Another focus is the analogy of American culture and the cultural obsession with being bigger, stronger and faster in everything America does, Buono said.

He compares it to how regular men are trying to look better and thus, feel better and sometimes even have a 'male body obsession.' This idea of making oneself better no matter what, taints the reputation of steroids, Buono said.

Through his research, Buono found that steroids are 'not nearly as bad' as the media portrays them, and the 'mythology and hype' the media gives steroids is what influences America's perception of them.

He compares it to American culture in that Americans do whatever it takes to succeed.

'Undoubtedly, there is a problem (with steroids) and we want to fix it,' Buono said. 'Winning at all costs is just a symptom of the problem that America has.'

The way America looks at steroids creates a double standard for athletes as well, Buono said. On one hand people frown on their use, while on the other they support it financially and almost subconsciously.

'We, as sports fans, are somewhat responsible for this,' Buono said. 'We buy the tickets, and what we want more (than anything) is a broken record' in athletics.

The film doesn't just analyze the steroid hype of today, but entertains as well. The movie was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and received a positive response.

'The film is so much more than an ESPN sports story,' Buono said.

Not only was this Buono's first documentary, but it was a challenge for him as well.

'There's nothing to fall back on, there's no script,' Buono said. 'You have to let the story play out.'

Writers Chris Bell and Tamsin Rawady also played a part in the film along with Terry Aarnio, from Oregon Iron Works, who financed the project.

Buono's connections to the metro area in the film's recent premiere in Portland made the release at the Regal Fox Tower more special than other premieres.

'In all honesty, the Los Angeles premiere and Prague do not compare to Portland,' Buono said. 'I'm very proud to have brought it home.'