RATING |

Hamill, which leads off CineFest's Saturday schedule, is a studiously sincere docudrama about Matt "The Hammer" Hamill, a member of the NCAA Wrestling Hall of Fame, the first deaf man to win a national title.

His story rolls out chronologically, from the prejudice he faces as a boy in small-town Ohio to high school heartbreak. (This film spends more time at the prom than Carrie did.)

Hamill (Russell Harvard) is pushed through every obstacle he faces by his tough-love grandfather (Justified's Raymond J. Barry). After a particularly frustrating disappointment, his pop-pop says, "You looking for a pity party?"

After bombing out of the wrestling program at Purdue University, Hamill enrolls at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a Division III school in athletics, where for the first time, he is surrounded by other deaf students.

Even on campus, he is something of a misfit, because he has learned to rely on lip-reading and his sign-language skills are undeveloped. But his energetic roomie (Michael Anthony Spady) in the deaf quad enthuses Hamill out of his isolation.

He succeeds in the ring because of intense preparation and focus, but discovers those traits don't get you a second date.

The film uses a simple but effective method of evoking Hamill's POV - in the middle of a raucous crowd scene, the audio will drop out entirely.

Neither artful nor pretty, Hamill is more congestively melodramatic than a Hallmark Channel TV movie.

But in its slow, deliberate style, it does manage to dramatize the challenges faced by the deaf.

Hamill ** (out of four stars)

Directed by Oren Kaplan. With Russell Harvard, Raymond J. Barry, and Michael Anthony Spady. With English subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 48 mins.

Parent's guide: NR (violence)

Playing at: noon Friday and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Ritz East.EndText

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his pop-culture blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/dave_on_demand.