Hot Docs Festival: Sport Films

So here we are again one year later! Hot Docs: Canadian International Documentary Film Festival is back and just as good as ever. From opening night on April 28 to the final day on May 8 there are ample movies to choose from. Below are sport documentaries that are sure to be riveting. (All film synopses courtesy of Hot Docs. For the full schedule and showtimes, as well as costs visit the festival website:

GLEASON – USA – 110 mins
At age 34, former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. With limited time left to live, he purposefully records his spirited and inspiring life .

Part riveting biopic, part legal thriller, this five-episode series from the makers of ESPN’s legendary 30 for 30 program brings new perspectives and unprecedented access to the complex story of America’s most famous murder trial.

Run away and join the circus performers – acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns and even horses – who’ve retired to Sarasota, forming a close-knit community of larger than life personalities that continue to defy gravity long after the thrills of the Big Top have ended.

GUN RUNNERS – Canada – 90 mins
Two of the most notorious warriors in Kenya’s magnificent Great Rift Valley trade in their AK-47s for sneakers and a chance to make their living as professional marathon runners in this powerful story of friendship, rivalry and sport.

A charming group of misfit skateboarders navigate the Georgian capital of Tbilisi seeking their place in the magical, dark and confining city that’s steeped in Soviet history and a conservative religion that’s completely at odds with their non-conformist outlook.

HIT IT HARD – USA – 51 mins
Meet the hyper-talented and unpredictable “rock star of golf” John Daly as he reflects on the chard-earned lessons of his incredible career: from winning two major tournaments despite being only self-taught, to facing the destructive lows of his addictions.

HOOP DREAMS – USA – 176 mins
This seminal and award-winning game changer tells the story of two Chicago inner-city basketball prodigies struggling with institutions that hold up unreasonable expectations and ignore the colossal burden carried on their young shoulders.

In his hometown of Hampton, Virginia, Steve James revisits the racially charged trial and conviction of high school basketball star Allen Iverson, which brought bubbling rancor to the surface and still haunts its residents.


Inside Vanity Fair: Trans America, Special Issue on Gender Identity and Expression

I wrote about Caitlyn Jenner at the beginning of the summer following her public affirmation that she is, and has always been, a woman (at the time she was still calling herself Bruce Jenner, hence my outdated title). Since then, Jenner has been featured on the cover of Vanity Fair (July 2015 Issue) and awarded the 2015 ESPY: Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Both the Vanity Fair article, which was thoughtfully and carefully researched and written by author Buzz Bissinger, and the ESPY award, which was presented to Jenner in front an almost exclusive athletic environment, were groundbreaking moments for transgender visibility in sport (and in general).

The Inside Vanity Fair: Trans America, Special Issue on Gender Identity and Expression features a collection of stories and profiles about famous individuals around the globe who have publicly identified as transgender. Jenner has helped to usher in a more mainstream focus on transgender rights and experiences, but this notion that Jenner has spurned a “movement” or a “moment” is misleading. As the Inside Vanity Fair issue represents, there are individuals from around the globe, and specifically in North America, who have challenged social norms for decades.

Renee Richards is one of those individuals (and also featured in the VF issue). Her story was documented in the ESPN film: Renee, which chronicles Richards life as a successful doctor and a member of the upper-echelons of American society (and a tennis fanatic who was very prominent in the amateur circuit). When Richards transitioned genders and “became” a woman, she also moved her life out west to California where she was officially known as Renee. There she began to play tennis in the women’s amateur circuit and because of her dominance and success, people began to question her gender identity and inclusion in the game. From there, the story gets very public and fascinating, but also stressful and sad for Richards, as she is outed as a trans woman, and thrust into the spotlight. By the way, this was the 1970s! and at that time, transgender rights and visibility was a long ways away from where we are now. BBC recently interviewed Richards – Tennis’s Reluctant Transgender Pioneer – it’s a fantastic read.

Fallon Fox is also featured in the VF issue, and is a well-known mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor from the US. Her experience in MMA has been widely chronicled and debated, with many high-profile people involved in the MMA scene commenting that she shouldn’t be allowed and has an unfair advantage. Her license to compete, after her coming-out as trans, was called into question too. As it stands, Fox continues to participate in the MMA scene, and has become a public speaker and advocate for trans inclusion in sport.

The Inside Vanity Fair: Trans America, Special Issue on Gender Identity and Expression is on news stands until November 2015, and is a wonderful crash course on transgender visibility and activism.

Nine for IX: A Documentary Series

A follow-up to my previous post on Thursday, in 2013 espnW aired a documentary series entitled Nine for IX. This series features 10 films, each of which focuses on a different person, group, and/or event in the history of women’s professional sports. For a full listing of films go HERE. One film in particular focuses on the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team during the late 1990s, and how their struggles and successes had a huge impact on the visibility of women’s soccer in the United States of America and elsewhere.

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