Steve Bartman, Raiders, Marion Jones, NASCAR, BMX among Subjects Explored
ESPN Films is announcing eight additional films and filmmakers for its ambitious “30 for 30” film project, bringing the total of films announced thus far to 25. The filmmakers include Morgan Freemanand Lori McCreary (Revelations Entertainment), Ice Cube, Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), Academy Award nominee Frank Marshall, John Singleton, and the trios of Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (Dickhouse Productions), and Steve Michaels, Joel Surnow and Jonathan Koch (Asylum Entertainment). These noted directors and producers will delve into sports stories of the past 30 years – from unforgettable athletes, to NASCAR, soccer and the 2003 Chicago Cubs. Debuting in October 2009, “30 for 30” will gather 30 filmmakers to each create one-hour films on topics from 1979 to 2009, ESPN’s first 30 years.
Catching Hell (Director: Alex Gibney)
With five outs remaining in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, a foul ball descended from the cold Chicago sky, destined for the glove of left fielder Moises Alou. But it was not meant to be, as one inconspicuous hand reached down from the left field stands at Wrigley Field and seized the potential out. That hand belonged to Cubs fan Steve Bartman, and many believed that he snatched away Chicago’s chance of advancing to the World Series. Bartman attempted a public appeal, but his fate was already sealed by the Cub fans’ need for a scapegoat to explain a near-century of losing. Although Cubs Nation has since moved on to other seasons and other losses, Bartman remains ostracized from a community he lives in and a team he once loved. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney will explore this relationship and try to answer the question, can Steve Bartman ever forgive Chicago?
One Simple Gesture (Director: Cliff Bestall, Producers: Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary)
Rugby has long been viewed in South Africa as a game for the white population, and the country’s success in the sport has been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the 50-year-old policies and entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. When Mandela himself marched to the center of the pitch cloaked in a Springbok jersey and shook hands with the captain of the South African team, two nations became one. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and director Cliff Bestall will tell the emotional story of that cornerstone moment and what it meant to South Africa’s healing process.
Birth of Big Air (Director: Jeff Tremaine, Producers: Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze)
In 1985, at the tender age of 13, Mat Hoffman entered into the BMX circuit as an amateur, and by 16, he had risen to the professional level. Throughout his storied career, Hoffman has ignored conventional limitations; instead focusing his efforts on the purity of the sport and the pursuit of “what’s next.” His motivations stem purely from his own ambitions, and even without endorsements, cameras, fame, and fans, Hoffman would still be working to push the boundaries of gravity. Academy Award nominee Spike Jonze and extreme sport fanatic Johnny Knoxville, along with director Jeff Tremaine, will showcase the inner workings and exploits of the man who gave birth to “Big Air.”
Straight Outta L.A. (Director: Ice Cube)
In 1982, Raiders owner Al Davis beat the NFL in court and moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. With a squad as colorful as its owner, the Raiders captivated large numbers of black and Hispanic fans in L.A. at a time when gang warfare, immigration and the real estate boom were rapidly changing the city. The L.A. Raiders morphed into a worldwide brand as the team’s colors, swagger and anti-establishment ethos became linked with “Gangsta Rap” and the hip-hop scene that was permeating South Central Los Angeles. Rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube was not only witness to this evolution; he was also a part of it. As a member of the notorious rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant to a new generation and demographic. Still a die-hard Raiders fan, Cube will explore the unlikely marriage between the NFL’s rebel franchise and America’s glamour city, and show how pro football’s outlaw team became the toast of La La Land.
Charismatic (Director: Asylum Entertainment)
In June of 1999, an unlikely chestnut colt named Charismatic, with jockey Chris Antley aboard, headed down the stretch at the Belmont Stakes, just seconds away from becoming the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 21 years. Thoroughbred racing was desperate for this story of deliverance, drug abuse and bulimia were becoming issues in the jockey colony, and America’s love affair with the Sport of Kings was waning. Into this void stepped Charismatic and Antley, both thought to be lost causes. Together, they became the biggest long shots in 59 years to win the Kentucky Derby, and then followed that up with another underdog win at the Preakness. The two may have been denied their Hollywood ending, but their story of redemption lives on.
Right to Play (Director: Frank Marshall)
He has won four Olympic gold medals, graced the cover of Time magazine and been honored as Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Yet if you say the name Johann Olav Koss in this country, you’ll usually be met with a casual shrug. “Oh yeah, speed skater…Norwegian…what’s he doing now?” Instead of cashing in on his Olympic haul, Koss embarked on a remarkable journey that has established him as one of the world’s greatest ambassadors of sports. As the founder, President and CEO of Right To Play, Koss and his army of volunteers, teachers, coaches and diplomats have used the power of athletics to elevate the lives of the world’s neediest children. As it turns out, Frank Marshall, one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed producers and a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, witnessed Koss’s triumphs on the ice in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games. Now Marshall will reveal the epiphany that led Koss to start Right To Play, and attempt to uncover the motivation that drives him to crisscross the globe, establishing new programs and literally saving lives in the process.
Marion Jones: Press Pause (Director: John Singleton)
Few athletes in Olympic history have reached such heights and depths as Marion Jones. After starring at the University of North Carolina and winning gold at the 1997 and ’99 World Track and Field Championships, her rise to the top culminated at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Jones captivated the world with her beauty, style and athletic dominance, sprinting and jumping to three gold medals and two bronze. Eventually though, her accomplishments and her reputation would be tarnished. For years, Jones denied the increasing speculation that she used performance-enhancing drugs. But in October 2007, she finally admitted what so many had long suspected – that she had indeed used steroids. Calling herself a liar and a cheat in a federal courtroom, Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to federal investigators and soon saw her Olympic achievements disqualified. Now a free woman once again, Jones is running in a new direction in life and taking time to reflect. Director John Singleton will focus on the rise, fall and re-birth of Marion Jones, including her desire to slow down and come clean about her mistakes. Jones is determined to be a model of candor and credibility.
30 for 30
The eight films join previously announced “30 for 30” projects: Peter Berg (Kings Ransom), Reggie Rock Bythewood (One Night in Vegas), Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman (The U), Academy Award winner Bill Couturié (The Gurus of Go), Jonathan Hock (The Best that Never Was), Academy Award nominee Steve James (The Allen Iverson Story), the duo of Lucas Jansen and Adam Kurland (Silly Little Game), Peabody Award winner Dan Klores (Winning Time), two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (The Steinbrenner Family Business), Academy Award winner Barry Levinson (The Band That Wouldn’t Die), Academy Award nominee Albert Maysles (Muhammad and Larry), Peabody Award winner Fritz Mitchell (Wizard of Odds), Academy Award nominee Brett Morgen (June 17, 1994), two-time NBA MVP and first-time filmmaker Steve Nash (Marathon of Hope), Academy Award nominee Ron Shelton (Jordan Plays Baseball), Academy Award nominee Mike Tollin (Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?), and Jeff Zimbalist (The Two Escobars).
Films produced as part of the “30 for 30” project will begin airing on October 6 on ESPN, with seven films airing before the end of 2009. Air dates for fall/winter 2009:
All times Eastern Standard Time
- Tuesday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 12, 9 p.m.
For information about the “30 for 30” project and ESPN Films, visit www.espnmediazone.com