[With less than a week until the Melbourne International Film Festival programme is launched, Julian considers how he would fill out the festival if he was given the opportunity.]
One of the most exclusive categories at the Melbourne International Film Festival is This Sporting Life, a section dedicated to the important characters, events and issues in the world of sports. Featuring only five films last year, the category is often dominated by US and UK documentaries – and my picks certainly reflect this. Knuckleball! was close to creeping into my five titles but I was turned off by having another American-based production in there, and its limited fanbase didn’t help.
So, let’s take a look at my selections for the This Sporting Life section:
The Announcement | dir. Nelson George | USA
On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson held a press conference to announce he was HIV-positive and would be retiring from basketball. A stunning moment in sporting history, this ESPN produced feature explores the significance of Magic’s announcement twenty years on.
Head Games | dir. Steve James | USA
Head Games is based on the novel by professional footballer and wrestler Christopher Nowinski, and this new film from the acclaimed director of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters looks at the devastating and long-term effects of concussions in all sports, especially collision-based ones. Particularly relevant to anyone that watches or plays AFL.
This Ain’t California | dir. Marten Persiel | GER
Looking at East German “wheel-board-riders” in the 1980s, the film mixes original clips with animations and interviews from the scene’s leaders. Life in the GDR like you’ve never seen it before, this looks like an incredibly interesting documentary.
Town of Runners | dir. Jerry Rothwell | ETH/UK
Ethiopian village Bekoji has produced more Olympic medallists than most countries, and director Rothwell explores why that is the case by tracking two budding female runners. With bureaucracy and funding hindering their process, the film follows how the community comes together to help make the girls’ ambitions a reality.
Undefeated | dir. Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin | USA
Already announced by MIFF, this is Lindsay and Martin’s first feature out of film school and it won them this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. An intimate look at the struggles of a high school football team in Memphis, Undefeated is a tremendously powerful story in what is very familiar territory.
So that’s what I would have in the programme for MIFF 2012. Have I missed anything? What would you want if you had free reign?