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ESPN Films & espnW Present NINE FOR IX (Docs On Venus Williams, Sheryl Swoopes, Others)

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
June 7, 2013 12:17 PM
1 Comment
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Here's the full lineup and first trailer for ESPN Films' Nine for IX - inspired by the 40th anniversary of Title IX (a 1972 education amendment, also known as the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which states, in part, that... no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance).

ESPN Films will air a series of nine documentaries, under the label, starting this summer, highlighting women in sports - all films directed by women filmmakers. 

The 9-film series will include Venus VS, directed by Ava DuVernay, described as "an in-depth documentary that explores tennis star Venus Williams’ fight for fair pay at Wimbledon."

Also, Swoopes - on WNBA star, Sheryl Swoopes - directed by Hannah Storm, which will give audiences "an unfiltered look from the inside out of a woman who achieved great things but had great struggles.

Shola Lynch, whose latest work, Free Angela & All Political Prisoners, recently opened in theaters, also contributes a film to the series, titled Runner, on long-distance runner Mary Decker, who collided with another runner, knocking her out of the race that was to be the biggest moment of her then life - her Olympic debut in 1984.

ESPN will begin airing the films, with the award-winning documentary short Coach, produced by Whoopi Goldberg - Vivian Stringer, the prolific college basketball coach - kicking off the series on June 18, running through August 27.

The full lineup of films follows below. You'll find the trailer underneath:
 
FILM SCHEDULE
 

VENUS VS.
July 2 at 8:00PM ET

Director | Ava DuVernay
Cast | Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe
 
Everyone knows about the swing. Everyone knows about the swagger. But what most Americans don’t know about Venus Williams is how she changed the course of her sport. In a stunning case that captured the attention of the European public beginning in 2005, Williams challenged the long-held practice of paying women tennis players less money than their male counterparts at the French Open and Wimbledon. With a deep sense of obligation to the legacy of Billie Jean King, Williams lobbied Parliament, UNESCO and Fleet Street for financial parity. Indeed, it was her poignant op-ed piece in The London Times that convinced many people that the tournament organizers at Wimbledon were “on the wrong side of history.” The boys clubs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon finally relented in 2007. In fact, it was at Wimbledon that year that Venus became the first women’s champion to earn as much as the men’s (Roger Federer).  So to her seven major championships, another victory can be added.
 

PAT XO
July 9 at 8:00PM ET

Directors | Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern
Producer | Robin Roberts
Cast | Pat Summitt, Tyler Summitt, Chamique Holdsclaw, 
Tamika Catchings, Michelle Marciniak, Geno Auriemma, 
Peyton Manning, Kenny Chesney
 

On April 18, 2012, Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in the history of the NCAA basketball, did the unimaginable and announced her resignation from the University of Tennessee. On the very same day, her son Tyler was named assistant coach of the Marquette’s women’s basketball team, his first job out of college. While the sports world reeled from the news of Pat’s early on-set Alzheimer’s, the coach and her son quietly set out to beat this challenge just as they had every other – with grace, humor and most of all, each other. Pat XO tells the remarkable story of Pat Summitt as it’s never been told before. This raw, authentic portrait takes the camera from the filmmaker’s hands and places it into those who know her best. With Tyler as the lead storyteller, moving recollections are shared by assistant coaches, players like Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Michelle Marciniak, fellow coach Geno Auriemma, and such admirers as Peyton Manning and Kenny Chesney. The archival footage and statistical records woven into the film provide their own insights into a woman who cared about winning, but also about elevating her players and her university.  If it’s possible to do justice to Pat Summitt, Pat XO does it. 

LET THEM WEAR TOWELS
July 16 at 8:00PM ET

Directors | Anna Sundberg and Ricki Stern
Cast | Melissa Ludtke, Lesley Visser, Christine Brennan
Claire Smith, Robin Herman, Michelle Himmelberg, Lawrie Mifflin and Jane Gross
 
Lisa Olson was just trying to do her job as a reporter for the Boston Herald in 1990 when a group of New England Patriot players sexually harassed her in their locker room.  Her lawsuit against the team ignited a storm of threats and she ultimately left her job and the U.S. to escape the torment. The story touched off a national debate about the presence of female journalists in the male sanctum of the clubhouse. That debate should have been settled 12 years earlier, when Melissa Ludtke of Sports Illustrated successfully challenged Major League Baseball after she was kept out of the New York Yankees locker room. Why had equal access for women reporters remained such a hot-button issue? That question is asked in Let Them Wear Towels, anexamination of females working in the man’s world of the locker room.  Through interviews with such pioneer women as Ludtke, Claire Smith, Lesley Visser and Jane Gross, you’ll hear stories of raw behavior and humorous retaliation, angry lawsuits and remarkable resolve.
 
NO LIMITS
July 23 at 8:00PM ET

Director | Alison Ellwood
Cast | Tanya Streeter
As a teenager, Audrey Mestre suffered from scoliosis, but in those formative years, she discovered a passion for the ocean. It offered her a sense of freedom, and the burdens she faced on dry land soon dissipated as she slipped below the surface. In the final stages of her PH.D., Mestre was drawn to Cabo San Lucas where she became infatuated with free-diver Pipin Ferreras, a Cuban defector whose dives had put him at the forefront of the sport. The two became a couple and Mestre followed the elusive, often raucous Pipin on his almost spiritual quest to push his limits underwater. Soon enough, Mestre moved from support team member to ardent free-diver and then to a world-class competitor who outshone her husband. In 2002, after news arrived that a rival female diver named Tanya Streeter had successfully gone to a record-breaking 525 feet, Pipin began preparations for Mestre to make a 561-foot dive off the coast of the Canary Island. Having completed practice dives even deeper in the weeks leading up to the record attempt, Mestre was prepared.  But because of a fateful decision before the dive, Mestre never resurfaced alive.
 

SWOOPES 
July 30 at 8:00PM ET

Director | Hannah Storm
Cast | Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, Phil Knight, David Stern, Tina Thompson
 
Sheryl Swoopes has famously been labeled as the female Michael Jordan.  Actually, she’s far more interesting. On the court, she was nearly as dominant as Michael: a national championship with Texas Tech, three Olympic gold medals, three MVP awards and four consecutive championships with the Houston Comets of the WNBA, the league she helped start. She even had a Nike shoe named after her, the Air Swoopes. Off the court, she gave birth in the middle of her first WNBA championship season, divorced her high school sweetheart, and became the highest-profile athlete in her sport to declare she was gay. She has struggled with love, family, money and lack of recognition, but she has never lost her spirit.  In this portrait, viewers will meet someone who’s not the everyday superstar, a woman who has defied a multitude of labels, including “old” – in August 2011, Swoopes, at 40, hit a buzzer-beater to end the Tulsa Shock’s 20-game losing streak.
 

THE DIPLOMAT
August 6 at 8:00PM ET

Director | Jennifer Arnold and Senain Kheshgi
Cast | Katarina Witt, Brian Boitano
 
At the height of the Cold War, Katarina Witt became one of East Germany’s most famous athletes. Trained in an ice rink that gave rise to socialist heroes, Witt dominated her field by winning six European skating titles, five world championships and back-to-back Olympic gold medals to become arguably the world’s best figure skater. Known as “the most beautiful face of socialism” her success gave her a unique status in East Germany. It also triggered constant surveillance by the Stasi, East Germany’s notorious secret police force. This film chronicles how Witt, one of the greatest skaters of all time, fought for her future in socialist East Germany, how she faced the great changes that occurred after the fall of The Berlin Wall and, ultimately, how she ended up both a beneficiary and victim of the East German regime.
 
RUNNER 
August 13 at 8:00PM ET
 
Director | Shola Lynch
Cast | Mary Decker, Zola Budd
Mary Decker obliterated opponents and records with blazing speed and a starving hunger to win. She dominated her sport, holding U.S. records in every distance from 800 to 10,000 meters, and she did it all without the Olympics. She was too young in ’72, hurt in ’76 and shut out by the U.S. boycott in ’80. As Sports Illustrated’s cover “Sportswoman of the Year” in 1983, she was ready: 1984 was the target, with the Olympics in Los Angeles and her skills at their 25 year-old peak. The world was buzzing about Decker’s shot at gold and her match-up against the young, barefooted new star, Zola Budd.  But the story leads to a single shocking moment in the 1984 Games, with Mary writhing on the ground in physical pain and emotional heartbreak, with the whole world watching.
 

THE '99ERS

August 20 at 8:00PM ET

Director | Erin Leyden
Producer | Julie Foudy

Cast | Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Kristine Lily
 
The world of women’s sports was kicked upside down on July 10, 1999.  Before a sold-out crowd of more than 90,000 at the Rose Bowl and an estimated 40 million Americans watching on television, the women’s soccer team reached a cultural and athletic pinnacle with its penalty-kick shoot-out victory over China to win the Women’s World Cup. These players were more than the ponytailed poster girls celebrated by mainstream media. As told through the voice of longtime team captain, Julie Foudy, viewers get an inside look at the strong team ethic and rare “do for each other” mentality that propelled them to victory that day and turned the team into a cultural touchstone. With unprecedented access, the film uses candid, behind-the-scenes footage shot by the players themselves during the tournament to present a unique portrait of the women who irrevocably changed the face of women’s athletics. Reuniting key players from the 1999 squad and talking with current U.S. players as well, the film examines how women’s soccer – and women’s sports as a whole – has changed since that epic day at the Rose Bowl.

 

BRANDED
August 27 at 8:00PM ET

Directors | Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Cast | Lolo Jones, Lisa Leslie, Chris Evert, Mary Lou Retton, Gabrielle Reece, Hope Solo, Laila Ali, Brandi Chastain

Sports is supposed to be the ultimate level playing field, but in the media and on Madison Avenue sometimes looks matter more than accomplishments. This film explores the double standard placed on women athletes to be the best players on the field and the sexiest off them.  Through stories of the women who have faced and tackled this question in very different ways, Branded explores the question: can women’s sports ever gain an equal footing with their male counterparts or will sex always override achievement?
 
More information and a trailer for Nine for IX can be viewed at espnW.com/NineForIX
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1 Comment

  • PIQUE | June 7, 2013 6:55 PMReply

    love 30 for 30. these look like good topics too. 9 for 9. interesting

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