Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Watch: Jason Segel on Playing David Foster Wallace in Sundance's 'End of the Tour' (Exclusive Interview) Watch: Jason Segel on Playing David Foster Wallace in Sundance's 'End of the Tour' (Exclusive Interview) Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Sundance Market Explodes with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' and 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' Sundance Market Explodes with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' and 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 
'The Witch' Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 'The Witch' Sundance: Netflix Inks Four-Picture Deal with Duplass Brothers Sundance: Netflix Inks Four-Picture Deal with Duplass Brothers Early Reviews Portend Sundance Breakout in Stylish Historical Horror 'The Witch' Early Reviews Portend Sundance Breakout in Stylish Historical Horror 'The Witch' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Martin Scorsese Breaks Long-Awaited 'Silence,' Set to Begin Filming This Month Martin Scorsese Breaks Long-Awaited 'Silence,' Set to Begin Filming This Month Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Oscar Predictions 2015 Oscar Predictions 2015

Docs – Life After Tribeca? These Titles Deserve It

Thompson on Hollywood By David D'Arcy | Thompson on Hollywood May 5, 2013 at 6:18AM

A few good docs always emerge from Tribeca. Yet emerging from any film festival with strong reviews and a distribution deal doesn’t mean that anyone will see the film.
0
'The Project'
'The Project'
'The Trials of Mohammed Ali'
'The Trials of Mohammed Ali'
'Lenny Cooke'
'Lenny Cooke'

A few good docs always emerge from Tribeca. Yet emerging from any film festival with strong reviews and a distribution deal doesn’t mean that anyone will see the film. 

Tribeca, with its ear to the ground, recognized that other festivals didn't take the sports documentary – or jockumentary--seriously. With support from ESPN and others Tribeca has seized the opportunity. The sports docs are now at the core of the Tribeca program.

“Lenny Cooke” is one of them. This much-awaited doc by the Safdie brothers (nephews of the Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie) takes us to a familiar story. But this specific sad journey from potential to present will get under your skin.

Cooke, a prodigiously promising kid from New York who came up with skills comparable to those of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony (two of the top NBA players today) is now overweight and way over the hill. He looks like an athlete might be expected to look when he’s fat, rich and 50. But Cooke just turned 31 on April 29.

'The Trials of Mohammed Ali'
'The Trials of Mohammed Ali'

It wasn’t drugs or women that did Lenny in, although he did have his first child when he was in high school. No, Lenny just thought he was smarter than everyone else. When he decided to go “hardship” – which meant going pro and cashing in, and he didn’t get picked in that year’s draft, he believed the pitch (and $300,000) that an agent gave him, and the bet didn’t pay off. No team in the US wanted him, and he began a common journey which involves playing with foreign teams and finally returning to the US with a minor league basketball job, and on to anonymity. Meanwhile, Anthony and James are the top names in basketball.

If Cooke didn’t see it coming, many coaches did, and they speak of college and pro sports in the doc as if these practices are slavery. It’s not just the fault of greedy exploiters. Kids with talent don’t believe that getting an education will get them any farther than getting a new Cadillac with a signing bonus. Of course, as we learn in “Lenny Cooke” (more than twenty years after “Hoop Dreams”), you’re more likely to win the lottery than to get a signing bonus. The movie supplies an update on the story of sports exploitation.

Cooke showed up for the premiere of the doc, smiling mournfully as he looks back at the career that never was.

Richard Pryor

Muhammad Ali saw what was happening to him when the US government tried to draft him and then prosecuted him for resisting. In the “The Trials of Muhammad Ali” doc that premiered at Tribeca, lots of archival footage takes us back to a time when an athlete spoke to truth in a way that few athletes would dare today.  (Maybe gay athletes are beginning to do that now. I’m sure that we’ll have some docs on that subject soon.)

In “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” directed by Bill Siegel (a colleague of the “Hoop Dreams” team) we watch as Ali turns to the Black Muslims, going so far as to condemn Malcolm X (whom the Muslims murdered), and we follow him into a dispute over the draft and religious opposition to a particular war that deprived him of his title and almost landed him in jail.

Despite that rich archival dimension, the film is a martyrology of the sort that we have come to expect in films about Ali. Why don’t more athletes choose to be political? Because they have seen how athletes who speak out have been punished.

In the other field in which some African-Americans were allowed to be successful, show business, Richard Pryor was known to speak his mind. As it did in the case of Muhammad Ali, the archival footage in “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic” gives you a case history that you don’t see today. See the doc by Marina Zenovich for that rich historical texture and for the volcanic wildness of Pryor live.

It’s a happy coincidence that William Friedkin, now touring with his book (“The Friedkin Connection”) and with the restored resurrection of “Sorcerers,” produced the Academy Awards of 1977. The first person to speak in that telecast was Richard Pryor, who declared: “No black person ever won no award for nuthin.” Pryor had originally planned to begin his statement with the N-word. “Go ahead, Richard, you’re known for that,” Friedkin recalls telling him. At the last minute, Friedkin says, Pryor decided against it.  He had a career to protect. See the film when it comes to HBO for Pryor’s scorching honesty, and for a television interview with the plain-spoken grandmother who raised him in the St. Louis pool hall that she operated.  The scene has the same kind of poignancy that you found in an interview with Stokely Carmichael and his mother in “The Black Power Mixtape.” Whatever you think of Carmichael or Pryor’s politics, you can’t deny their humanity.

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Documentary, Reviews, Festivals


E-Mail Updates