If you're not actually listening to everything said in Connected: The Joe Polish Story, you may not realize just how brilliant this quietly unassuming yet relentlessly engaging feature documentary really is until you get to the film's closing credits and you realize that even as an audience member you've done more than simply watch a film - you've been taught, inspired, educated, motivated, held accountable and, in some weird way, you've been immersed into the world of The Genius Network Founder Joe Polish.
In the relatively short span of a little over an hour, 11-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker Nick Nanton (Rudy Ruettiger: The Walk On, Return to Esperanza) has crafted a film that gives you full-on engagement with Joe Polish, whose early childhood experiences with sexual abuse fast forwarded his life into addiction before Joe's seemingly genetic positive spirit grabbed hold and he became committed to not only getting clean but to becoming a powerful force in business.
In case you don't know who Joe Polish is? Joe Polish has succeeded.
Through a failed carpet cleaning business, Joe learned an awful lot of life lessons as he built his network and eventually became the positive energy that founded "The Genius Network," an exclusive place where a stunning hybrid of industry titans from around the globe come together to cultivate their next big ideas while simultaneously becoming better entrepreneurs and better human beings. There's a wealth of these titans who appear in Connected: The Joe Polish Story including the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Tony Robbins among many others.
Joe himself is pictured throughout the film, less in the usual talking head way that we're used to seeing in biopic docs and more as a figure who is constantly in action, constantly connecting, constantly building and, yes, constantly challenging those around him to their highest potential.
It seems weird to describe a film such as Connected: The Joe Polish Story as unassuming, yet it may very well be Nanton's simple, straightforward approach to the film that makes it so incredibly brilliant. Nanton doesn't distract with razzle dazzle or special effects or narrative gimmicks or anything else, instead preferring to allow Joe's obnoxious meets ordinary personality to shine brightly and to serve as guide for where the film needs to go.
It works beautifully.
Currently scheduled for its West Coast premiere at Dances with Films on June 17th at 5pm, Connected: The Joe Polish Story is successful in telling, at least as much as is possible in a 67-minute film, the story of Joe's life precisely because it's successful at doing what Joe does so incredibly well - connecting. While largely featuring entrepreneurs who have succeeded on a level far greater than most of its viewers, Connected is surprisingly relatable, accessible film that somehow manages to connect the viewer to Joe's relentlessly positive spirit and seemingly inherent belief that what he's done you and I could do in our own lives.
As someone who has spent the better part of my own adult life traveling the roads of Indiana by wheelchair for a variety of charitable causes with my 30th anniversary tour just about three months away, I found myself both challenged and inspired by Connected. Several times throughout Connected, I found myself making mental notes about my own life, my own efforts, and the myriad of ways in which I so easily push my own needs aside in my charitable work.
But, truthfully. That's in many ways the point of Connected: The Joe Polish Story. It's a film about the power of connection and how that power can, and ultimately does, lead us to become better humans, better entrepreneurs, and better in pretty much every aspect of our lives - and it's a philosophy that those who are featured in the film endorse again and again and again. Connected is about Joe, sure, but it's also about what Joe has done in finding out how to use connection to improve his own life and the lives of those around him. He's immensely confident and successful, yet he's also known for his generosity and notable lack of ego in how he builds relationships and initiates connections.
Immersive and engaging, Connected: The Joe Polish Story is the kind of film you'll enjoy and appreciate from beginning to end. It's also the kind of film you'll want to re-watch because you just know that you've missed one of the film's kernels of wisdom. So, there you have it. Pay attention. Be engaged. Be inspired. Get connected.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic