Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gibney Captures a Hated Cub

Steve Bartman. For normal human beings, his name means nothing. But for baseball fans, and specifically Chicago Cubs followers, the man is the most recent example of the team's Championship curse. Bartman is notorious for catching a foul ball that might have prevented the Cubs from making the final out and advancing to the World Series back in 2003. This single act turned an entire city of loyal fans against this one man.

Six years later, ESPN is asking Oscar-Award winning filmmaker Alex Gibney to cover the event in an hour long documentary. It sounds very cut and dry until you hear the question Gibney poses for his film to answer: "Can Bartman ever forgive Chicago?" Gibney is a generally well loved filmmaker with an eye for the visual and with his name attached, this is instantly on the must see list.

The film, titled Steve Bartman, airs in early October and kicks off ESPN's 30 for 30 series covering(you guessed it) 30 sports documentaries. Besides Gibney, the series will feature some big name directors- Ron Shelton (White Men Can't Jump), Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) Barry Levinson (the Natural) Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA), Steve James (Hoop Dreams)- and even a few celebrity first-timers.

The the entire list of films hasn't been announced yet, but head on over to ESPN to read all the details and even catch a preview or two. With the powerhouse of names supporting this endeavour, expect some great things on ESPN through the fall and winter months.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Boxing's Black Eye Revealed

26 years ago, before Mike Tyson could throw one of his devastating punches, Luis Resto knocked out then-undefeated Billy Collins Jr. during a non-title fight at Madison Square Garden. This was no Cinderella story.

It was later revealed that Resto took the padding out of his gloves, allowing him to inflict greater damage on his opponent. The result: a tear in Collins' eye that ended his career (and may have contributed to his death a year later) and the punishment and banishment of Resto and his trainer.

Now, after decades of the boxing world trying to forget this tragedy, HBO is releasing the feature length documentary, Assault in the Ring. The film follows Resto (a now depressed man fighting drug addiction) as he is confronted by his trainer, his family, his ex-wife and the widow of the man whose career he ended.

USAToday has a brief description of the documentary, which airs Saturday at 10pm, but it's the comments from boxing fans who still refuse to grant Resto any grace for the damage he inflicted back in 1983 that make it worth the read.

Monday, July 27, 2009

China Can't Stop Aussie Doc lovers

The Melbourne International Film Festival has been battling ongoing complaints from the Chinese government over it's decision to premier Ten Conditions of Love. The controversy centers on the film's main character, Rebiya Kadeer, who is the head of the World Uighur Congress and considered a terrorist by the Chinese.

Despite protests from Chinese nationals, strongly worded phone calls from diplomats and a pro-Chinese computer hacker, the controversial documentary aired to a packed audience this past weekend. An additional bonus for the Melbourne International Film Festival was the surprisingly peaceful atmosphere surrounding the screening as there were no protests or violent outbursts on the day of the event. It seems the outcries to boycott Ten Conditions of Love only provided free advertising for its screening and guaranteed a packed house.

Director Jeff Daniels told Sky News, "I know emotions are running high at the moment. It's a very dark time for the Uighurs in China and there are a lot of angry people from China on both sides... So I'm very happy that it went peacefully, as a documentary should, and people were able to see different sides of the story."

For more on the story, head over to the article posted by AFP. We will keep you posted of any further outcry this film may cause.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Documentary Controversy at Jewish Film Fest

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF)is the most recent festival to come under fire for its selection of controversial documentary material. This time though, the fight seems just as much internal as it is external. The film at the center of the controversy, titled Rachel, covers the story of Rachel Corrie, a Washington state girl killed in 2003 while attempting to prevent an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian's home.

Though it has already aired at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, it seems major donars to the SFJFF don't think the film is appropriate material and have even gone so far as to call it a part of the new wave of anti-Semitism. Rachel was sponsored by another group of festival donors who believe the discourse is necessary and important to the community.

Beyond the fierce war of words, audiences boycotted opening-night ceremonies and even the festival board's president resigned. The SFJFF runs until August 10th, so expect this issue to persist for the next couple weeks and beyond.

Head over to the San Francisco Chronicle for a complete and detailed summary of the controversy.