Sports have a complex, sometimes obsessive, and occasionally dangerous hold over us. To quote ABC’s Wide World of Sports, they send us “spanning the globe for the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” and provoke both commonplace sentiments and unexpected forms of fascination. The love of sports crosses boundaries of nationality, class, and gender, creating forums for cross-cultural interaction that are not always civil. How can we understand this strange attachment to sports?
Typical media coverage of the topic is limited by a heroizing reverence for athletes that can even make “exposés” seem soft. A lack of distance or bias, some built-in homage structures conventional styles and means of conveyance. And so one turns to alternative artists to see whether and what can be made of “Sports.” Taking a broad, global stroke on this theme, this program approaches sport from diverse perspectives: while some films conceive it as inseparable from entertainment, others envision it as something more grave, more serious; while some view it from a position of detached observation, others blend creative analysis with the clear investment of a fan or participant. Yet all of these films diverge from conventional representations of the theme found in mainstream movies, TV news reportage, online forums, sports radio shows, and traditional written accounts, suggesting new ways of looking at sports and provoking new forms of affective engagement.
“Western History,” Stan Brakhage, 1971, 16mm, color, silent, 8 min
“A thumbnail History of the Western World…” – Canyon Cinema
“Secrets of Mexuality,” Martha Colburn, 2002, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min
“An X-acto knife. I like em dull. It works. Definite blindness and hand cramp risks… [P]roject it and be freaked at how those 4 months of work flew by in 4 minutes.” – M.C.
“The Awful Backlash,” Robert Nelson with William Allan, 1967, 16mm, b&w, sound, 14 min
The awfulness of a tangled fishing line gives way to “a sense of gradual recovery… as the thread unfolds from a position of multiplicity back to a singular line.” – Pamela Kember
“The Falcon,” Donna Cameron, 1987, 16mm, color, sound, 13 min
“A red camp film. The desert is for the birds? Surreal, but real. Originally shot in the ’60s in Kuwait, this story of falconry has been rephotographed, re-recorded and re-edited to bring the sad zaniness of sport to the screen, in livid color.” – Canyon Cinema
“Recuerdo of Two Sundays and Two Roads that Lead to the Sea,” Bibsy M. Carballo, 1969, 16mm, b&w, 16.5 min
A documentary produced in the Phillipines concerning “a fishing village on the outskirts of Manila where the lives of the people are inexorably bound to the sea.” – Film-Makers’ Coop
“More,” Robert Nelson, 1971/98, 16mm, b&w, sound, 20 min.
A softball victory spurs a dance party that shuts down a public street. Along with hippies and cops, the film also features a chance to win a smooth, used ride. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.
“Bang,” Robert Breer, 1986, 16mm, color, sound, 10 min
“[T]en dense minutes of collagistic mayhem…” – Katherine Dieckmann
“Knickerbocker Glory,” Smith & Lowles, 2010, video, color, sound, 4 min
A demystification of “The footballers [who] have become modern day archetypal gods…” – Film-Makers’ Coop