Hot Docs Special Presentation: Out to Win

Movie description provided by Hot Docs: Sports have the power to reflect and define our cultural identity and shape gender roles. When Michael Sam was drafted to the NFL in 2014, it was a groundbreaking event that blew the closet doors wide open on the challenges faced by professional LGBT athletes around the globe. From pioneers like tennis champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King to tomorrow’s superstars, Out to Win chronicles the history of LGBT in sports through perspectives of athletes, coaches, agents, fans and—perhaps most importantly—the media. The personal stories of trailblazers who openly share the sacrifices and conflicts that consumed their professional aspirations give context to present-day athletes whose private lives are increasingly scrutinized in our celebrity-focused culture. Filmmaker Malcolm Ingram connects these generations through the groundbreaking work of advocacy organizations and leaders like Jason Collins who have positively and permanently transformed the professional sports landscape, courts and fields.

This timely and important documentary is being screened at the festival on April 29, May 1 and May 2. Check it out, and go see some of the others they have in store too. Yay! to another year of Hot Docs.

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Hot Docs International Premiere: T-Rex

Movie description provided by Hot Docs: Just 17 years old, Claressa “T-Rex” Shields is a boxing phenomenon. With an unbeaten record, she trains hard on the equally hard streets of Flint, Michigan. Whether to escape her family’s crazy daily dramas or the dim prospects of life in a dead-end town, she is banking on one plan: the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Her coach—an obvious father-figure—gives her everything she needs to make it happen, from a second home to steel-focused training. Now she just has to win. But will even this potentially historic moment of fame be enough to change what the future often holds for a poor, African American girl in a recession-state? Filmmakers Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper combine a slick visual style with unexpectedly candid observations of a vulnerable young woman crafting a smart critique of the truly unequal opportunities of sports fame in America.

This amazing documentary is being screened at the festival on April 24, April 25 and May 2. Check it out, and go see some of the others they have in store too. Yay! to another year of Hot Docs.

Derrick Gordon Openly Smiling

In April of this year, Derrick Gordon of the Division I University of Massachusetts basketball program, publicly ‘came-out’ when speaking with Kate Fagan of espnW. Gordon’s honesty is timely and his story represents a movement in sport to accept and support LGBTQ athletes – this movement seems to be unstoppable and my impression is that it’ll culminate into a level of normalcy that is unprecedented (I’ll write more about this another time).

What’s interesting about the article is how it chronicles Gordon’s process – the decision to tell family, teammates, the coaching staff, and then the public; and the risks that he considered when taking these steps, which couldn’t have been easy. You know, for every LGBTQ athlete who does this [‘comes-out’], things do get a little easier for others, and of course the point is that it gets easier for themselves too although the road through it can be excruciating and/or nerve-wracking (to say the least). Ultimately this is why Gordon chose to be honest…it’s a brave thing to do.

Fagan also points out: “one of the common refrains surrounding gay athletes, specifically their decision to go public, is they will somehow become a ‘distraction’ to their teams, a sideshow for media and fans. But [Derek] Kellogg [U of M men’s basketball coach] says he thinks this news might galvanize his UMass squad and finally allow Gordon to play with more freedom and ease. ‘I’m looking at this as something that brings our team closer together,’ Kellogg said . ‘From speaking with Derrick, I realized the pressure he had, the weight that was on his shoulders'”.

This is fantastic leadership on the part of U of M, great messaging, and puts Gordon in a position where he can, and should, continue in his role with the university’s basketball program and flourish as a player. This whole story makes me happy 🙂
… I wonder though – when, and if, he chooses to enter the NBA Draft, will a team, and the league, embrace him? We shall see. Hopefully yes.