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ESPN Films Announces New Documentaries

Indiewire By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire July 28, 2011 at 6:49AM

After the success of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning ESPN documentary series "30 For 30," ESPN Films has announced the schedule for a new slate of sports documentaries covering a wide range of subject matter.
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"Renee" will run as part of this fall's series of ESPN Films documentaries.

After the success of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning ESPN documentary series "30 For 30," ESPN Films has announced the schedule for a new slate of sports documentaries covering a wide range of subject matter.

“We know that 30 for 30 truly resonated with our viewers and the recent Emmy nomination for the series proved to us that there is great interest and appreciation for sports documentaries from both fans and critics,” said ESPN’s SVP of Content Development and Enterprises Keith Clinkscales. “This new film series features both amazing filmmakers and incredible stories that capture the glory and the heartbreak of what sports mean to so many people.”

The series begins Tuesday, September 27th with Alex Gibney's "Catching Hell," which tells the story of the notorious Cubs fan who caught the wrong foul ball and singlehandedly demolished his team's World Series hopes. The film will be followed by "Renee," Eric Drath's profile of Renee Richards, the controversial tennis icon and pioneering transgender activist. The film has played at the Tribeca and Newfest Film Festivals.

Also scheduled is Morgan Spurlock's "The Dotted Line," which examines not athletes, but their agents.

Full press release follows:

Alex Gibney, Morgan Spurlock and Mike Tollin among the filmmakers; seven new films announced

ESPN Films, creators of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody award-winning 30 for 30 film series, has announced the schedule for a slate of new films presented by Buick. The film series will begin airing Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN HD, and will be aired Tuesday nights throughout the fall. Films include Catching Hell, Renée, The Dotted Line, Unguarded, The Real Rocky, Charismatic and Roll Tide/War Eagle.

The new slate will air as follows:

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m. – Catching Hell (Alex Gibney/Gary Cohen) *120 minutes
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m. – Renée (Eric Drath) *90 minutes
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 8 pm. – The Dotted Line (Morgan Spurlock/Jeremy Chilnick)
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m. – Unguarded (Jonathan Hock/Philip Aromando)
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. –The Real Rocky (Jeff Feuerzeig/Mike Tollin)
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m. – Charismatic (Steve Michaels/Jonathan Koch)
Tuesday, Nov. 8, 8 p.m. – Roll Tide/War Eagle (Martin Khodabakhshian)

“We know that 30 for 30 truly resonated with our viewers and the recent Emmy nomination for the series proved to us that there is great interest and appreciation for sports documentaries from both fans and critics,” said ESPN’s SVP of Content Development and Enterprises Keith Clinkscales. “This new film series features both amazing filmmakers and incredible stories that capture the glory and the heartbreak of what sports mean to so many people.”

Film summaries:

Catching Hell (Alex Gibney)

With five outs remaining in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, a foul ball descended from the cold Chicago sky, seemingly destined for the glove of Cubs left fielder Moises Alou. But a flurry of hands reached up and one hand, belonging to Cubs fan Steve Bartman, fatefully tipped the ball away from a frustrated Alou. Most long-suffering Cubs fans, including a chorus of hostile ones in Wrigley Field, quickly became convinced that Bartman had swatted away Chicago’s chance of advancing to the World Series for the first time 58 years. The mild-mannered Bartman released a sincere public apology, but his fate was already sealed by the Cubs fans’ need for a scapegoat to explain a near-century of losing. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney relates the scapegoat compulsion to his own frustration as a Red Sox fan when Bill Buckner was similarly singled out for letting a fateful ground ball go through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Gibney engages Buckner and his story as a means of exploring what has kept Bartman so silent despite highly lucrative offers to tell his side of the story.

Renée (Eric Drath)

The film tells the story of Renée Richard’s battle to enter the 1977 U.S. Open as the first transgender tennis player. Simultaneously, it follows her today as she struggles to cope with a life of contradictions and personal conflict. Through interviews with tennis legends, family, friends and experts from the transgender field; a story of perseverance, breakthrough and hardship unfolds.

The Dotted Line (Morgan Spurlock)

The Dotted Line is an in-depth look at what it takes to be a big-time agent in the fiercely competitive world of major league sports. Agents Peter Greenberg and Eugene Lee are profiled along with their clients New York Mets’ pitcher Johan Santana (Greenberg’s) and NFL hopefuls Jacquian Williams and Robert Hughes (Lee’s).

Unguarded (Jonathan Hock)

Chris Herren, Fall River, Massachusetts’ high school basketball superstar, played for Boston University, for Jerry Tarkanian’s Fresno State team, bounced around the NBA (once playing for his beloved Celtics) and around the globe. Chris failed drug tests wherever he played. Ultimately, Chris - the youngest and most talented of three generations of local heroes - has found redemption and personal fulfillment through the game, but only after it led him down a path of alcohol and drug addiction that nearly killed him.

The Real Rocky (Jeff Feuerzeig)

Chuck Wepner is a liquor salesman from Bayonne, NJ who drives a Cadillac with “Champ” vanity plates. A former New Jersey State Heavyweight Boxing Champion, he took abuse from Sonny Liston, got his nose broken by Muhammad Ali, and inspired Sylvester Stallone to write “Rocky” which won three Academy Awards. Wepner was left out of the “Rocky” glory, and his career took turn after strange turn as he worked to stay in the spotlight: he went on to fight Andre the Giant as “The Assassin” and boxed a 900 pound bear. Twice.

Charismatic (Steve Michaels)

In June of 1999 an unlikely colt named Charismatic, with down and out 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 as track attendance was in steep decline. 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 up with another underdog win at the Preakness, before tragedy struck.

Roll Tide/War Eagle (Martin Khodabakhshian)

With two Heisman trophies, two national championships and one crazed fan, the biggest rivalry in college sports, Auburn vs. Alabama, has reached new heights in the last two years. This is the story of the history between the two programs, the bad blood between its fans and how this intense rivalry came to a pinnacle, just when they ended up needing each other most.

ESPN Films’ new slate of documentaries will be available on iTunes and Amazon.com the day after each film’s broadcast premiere and will be available on DVD shortly thereafter at major retailers. A compilation of films from the series will be available in a collectible DVD Gift Set this holiday season.

About ESPN Films

Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing compelling sports stories. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. Additional projects from ESPN Films include, among others, the critically acclaimed and Television Academy Honor-winning 16th Man, Cannes Film Festival official selection The Two Escobars, and the Peabody Award-winning Black Magic. Catching Hell, from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, and Renée, from filmmaker Eric Drath, are featured in the latest ESPN Films series airing this fall.

This article is related to: Television