Four-Film Slate for Spring: Hellfighters, The Streak, Bud Greenspan: At the Heart of the Games
and The Zen of Bobby V
ESPN Films will give sports and film fans plenty of reason to grab the popcorn and soda, and settle in on Tuesday nights this spring. On April 22 at 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2 will begin airing the first of four inspirational and revealing documentary films – all making their televised world premieres – as part of the new ESPN Films initiative. The slate will feature: Hellfighters (about an against-all-odds high school football team); The Streak (about a high school wrestling team’s 34-year win streak); Bud Greenspan: At the Heart of the Games (about the famed Olympics filmographer) and The Zen of Bobby V (about Bobby Valentine and baseball in Japan).
The slate represents the first comprehensive offering of the new ESPN Films division – a unit of ESPN Content Development – which will fill up to 10 primetime windows on ESPN and ESPN2 in 2008. The first night of ESPN Films’ inaugural project – the four-hour, two-part film Black Magic (March 16 & 17 on ESPN), was the most-viewed documentary ever for the network averaging 1,546,000 viewers (P2+) based on a 1.3 rating.
“Black Magic was just the beginning of great films to come,” said Joan Lynch, vice president, ESPN content development. “Our spring slate typifies the diversity of subject matter we seek to explore with ESPN Films and delivers on our promise of providing fans with the highest quality creative content.”
The Four-Film Slate
April 22 – Hellfighters
Directed by Jon Frankel
Harlem’s only high school football team, the Hellfighters, are a long way from Friday Night Lights. The bleachers are empty, practice space scarce, and the Board of Education bureaucracy ruthless, but under the perseverance of coach Duke Fergerson, the Hellfighters are fighting to overcome it all, one touchdown at a time. The film features a new, 30-minute addendum to show viewers where the players and coaches are now. In addition, Hellfighters will be available on DVD from ESPN Home Entertainment and Genius Products Inc., this fall.
April 29 – The Streak
Produced by John Hock (Hock Films); Executive Producers: Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos (Milojo Productions), and Jason Sciavicco
The longest winning streak in the history of American sports is the focus of this film chronicling the 2007-08 season of the Brandon High School (Tampa, Fla.) wrestling program which entered the season having won 451 straight matches dating back to 1974. Team members train for years to earn a coveted spot knowing that the pride and prestige of being a Brandon wrestler comes with the weight of expectation by fans, alums and themselves that the record is preserved.
May 6 – Bud Greenspan: The Heart of the Games
Produced by Cappy Productions
This film tells the most defining stories and moments in the life and work of the highly acclaimed and revolutionary Olympic filmmaker, Bud Greenspan. Included are athletes that have stirred the world’s imagination, from celebrated winners, such as gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton, to largely forgotten also rans, such as marathoner John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania, who courageously finished a grueling 26-mile marathon on a badly damaged and bandaged leg in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
May 13 – The Zen of Bobby V
Produced by ESPN, in conjunction with Andrew Jenks (Throwback Pictures)
This two-hour film focuses on former Major League player and manager, Bobby Valentine, and his current job managing one of Japan’s premiere baseball teams – the Chiba Lotte Marines. Fresh off its world premiere at the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, The Zen of Bobby V will give baseball fans and viewers unprecedented access to Valentine and his team, while exploring the impact globalization has on the game’s present and future. Additionally, original online webisodes and written blogs detailing the production of the film and baseball life in Japan will be produced exclusively for ESPN.com’s Page 2.
Part of ESPN Content Development, ESPN Films will present quality scripted and documentary film projects for television and theatrical release, including “30/30,” a celebration of the last three decades of sports timed with ESPN’s 30th anniversary in September 2009. The unit will collaborate with The Walt Disney Studios and the Creative Artists Agency on scripted sports films.
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