Durham film festival turns lens to sporting life

Durham’s Full Frame Documentary and Film Festival will turn focus on sports movies this year. The festival, called This Sporting Life, runs April 2-5 at American Tobacco Campus.

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Durham’s Full Frame Documentary and Film Festival will turn the lens on sports this year.

The festival, called This Sporting Life, runs April 2-5 at American Tobacco Campus. Visitors can screen films about everything from boxing to bull-fighting to basketball.

One of the most famous sports documentaries, “Hoop Dreams,” will be a highlight among the entries at this year's festival. More than 1,000 films were entered. Only 100 made the cut.

Sadie Tillery, director of programming, for the festival, said the imagery and stories of the sports world are familiar to many.

“Probably the biggest source of documentary time we take in on a weekly basis is watching sports on television,” she pointed out.

In choosing films to feature, Tillery looked beyond the X’s and O’s.

“What we were really looking for was character driven work that encourages you to care or look deeper within the sport's story,” she said.

The films screened at the festival span eras and genres – from British legend Richard Harris as a struggling rugby player in "The Sporting Life," to Paul Newman’s comedic turn in "Slap Shot," to the young basketball hopefuls of "Hoop Dreams."

“Even if you’re not interested in sports, these are films that make you think about the cinematic form,” Tillery said.

“These are different films that you would not necessarily see on the Blockbuster shelf. When you see them together, it really is a study in the different ways of approaching our sporting life, our sports culture.”

Highlights of Full Frame 2009 – This Sporting Life


Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple portrays the swift rise and precipitous fall of one of boxing’s most complicated figures.

THE GOOD FIGHT Work-in-Progress/ George Butler
One of the winningest coaches in college football, Bobby Bowden leads the Florida State team through the 2006 season – one of the toughest they ever faced – on a regimen of hard-core training and Baptist devotion.

MALETILLA / Victoria Clay-Mendoza
Three up-and-coming bullfighters introduce us to the existential mysteries of the revered, violent, and intoxicatingly graceful relationship between man and bull.

MAN UP / Arturo Cabanas
A young boy and his well-intentioned soldier father, who dreams of training his son to be a champion wrestler, grapple with the chasm growing between them.

PAPER LION / Alex March
Alan Alda stars as George Plimpton, the famous reporter who went undercover as a Detroit Lion quarterback to get an inside look at the 1963 NFL season.

RANK / John Hyams
Welcome to the saddle-busting, bone-breaking world of bull riding, where only the toughest cowboys can make it through a season to the final competition and its purse of one million dollars.

Young Chinese children, many of them from poor and rural areas, train relentlessly for Olympic glory, in part out of a crushing sense of obligation to their families, their coaches, and their nation.

SLAP SHOT / George Roy Hill
Paul Newman has the time of his life playing an aging hockey player-coach concocting outrageous schemes to save his team from the economic collapse afflicting their hometown.

THIS SPORTING LIFE / Lindsay Anderson
Down-and-out coal miner Frank Machin, masterfully played by Richard Harris, rises to rugby league glory but fails at love in Lindsay Anderson’s first narrative film.

ZIDANE: A 21ST CENTURY PORTRAIT / Philippe Parreno, Douglas Gordon

Part experimental film, part subversive biography, part installation piece, and part sporting event, this film transports the viewer into the mythical zone that elite athletes at the top of their game inhabit.


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