Regent Park Film Festival Kicks Off with Love & Basketball

No words can describe how excited I am that the Regent Park Film Festival will be starting their Under the Stars outdoor screening series with Love & Basketball – one of the greatest movies ever. Gina Prince-Bythewood is the writer-director behind the genius that is this film as it captures adversity, love, sport, relationships, race and gender. It weaves together drama and romance so smoothly, and the acting is spot-on. Not to mention the soundtrack features the best tracks from the 80s and 90s. I can’t say enough about how fantastic this film is and how there is no other like it.

The main players behind the film were recently interviewed by the Huffington Post and this is what Prince-Bythewood had to say about the beginnings and the import of the film:

It was just an idea that was in my head, it was a very personal story, a lot of it is autobiographical. Growing up, ball was everything to me. I’m an athlete first and always have been, and it’s been so much a part of my life. And I just didn’t feel that I ever saw that woman or girl reflected on screen. Finally after a year and a half, [my husband Reggie, who is also a writer, and I] felt it was good enough and went out with it. Every single studio turned it down. It was devastating. I remember I had a list on my fridge of all the studios and every day crossing another one off. And I kept getting the feedback that it was “too soft,” which I just didn’t know what that meant, how is it soft? But I think part of it was also it was a film with two people of color in the lead in a love story. It wasn’t a comedy. At that time, obviously there was the success of “Boyz in the Hood” and “Menace II Society” and this was something definitely different. But again, it was what I wanted to see and what I felt we hadn’t had an opportunity to see.

If you’ve never seen the film – or it’s been a while since the first or last time you watched it – come out to Regent Park (the Big Park), 620 Dundas St. E. on Wednesday, July 13. Screening starts at 9 p.m. but consider showing up early for Taste of Regent Park, a community event that showcases food, art and culture of Regent Park every Wednesday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. CAN’T WAIT.

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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: http://www.hotdocs.ca/p/hot-docs-festival).

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 .

O.J. SIMPSON: MADE IN AMERICA – USA – 464 mins
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.

AFTER CIRCUS – CANADA – 78 mins
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.

WHEN THE EARTH SEEMS TO MELT – GEORGIA, GERMANY – 76 min
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.

NO CROSSOVER: THE TRIAL OF ALLEN IVERSON – USA – 82 mins
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.

Canadian Sport Film Festival: June 5-7 in Toronto

The 7th annual Canadian Sport Film Festival (CSFF) is a low-budget, grassroots initiative that started in 2008 by Russell Field, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba and a former film review editor for the Journal of Sport History. Screenings are at TIFF Bell Lightbox and CSFF will present 11 feature films and 16 short films including Winning Girl* and Coming Back to the Hoop*. Tickets are cheap: regular $12 and students/seniors $7, and can be purchased online. The thing I love about these kinds of film festivals is the chance to see a rare, independent piece of genius.

*WINNING GIRL follows the 4-year journey of this part-Polynesian female judo and wrestling phenomenon from Hawai‘i and her family. It tells the story of an elite athlete on her ascent, a girl facing the challenges of growing up and an entire family dedicated to a single dream.

*COMING BACK to the HOOP is about Jane Pittman, a promising basketball star at her small town high school in the 1960s, who ran off the court during a holiday tournament game never to return … until now. When Jane stumbles across the NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association, old passions are reignited and Jane reconnects with her love of the game.