Boxing has been an Olympic sport since the 1904 Summer games. Jason Hutt's "Orthodox Stance" profiles 24-year-old Russian immigrant Dmitriy Salita, a professional boxer and devoutly religious Orthodox Jew. Putting the lie to jokes about the absence of Jewish pro athletes, Hutt follows the fighter over many years, as he prepares for his first professional title and balances training with Torah study and weigh-ins with keeping kosher.
While it made an appearance as a demonstration event in the same 1904 Summer games, it took until 1936 for basketball to become a medal sport. Xavier Mitchell's "Fathers of the Sport" goes back to where the sport began for many players - the playground. The film explores the history and influence of the playground basketball court games in NYC and elsewhere, the legends they produced, as well as the unsung heroes who never quite made it to the NBA.
Missing only the first modern Olympics in 1896 and the 1932 games, soccer has been a consistently popular Summer Olympics mainstay. Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Ryan White's "Pelada" explores the love of soccer across twenty-five countries. Luke and Gwendolyn, former collegiate players, play pick-up games around the world, exploring the lives of a wide-range of players in the process - from Bolivian prisoners to hijab-clad Iranian women athletes.
MIke Scullion's "Downtown Dawgs" also looks at the international draw of soccer, but focuses it through the lens of homeless players. The film follows five players from a Calgary homeless soccer team, as well as their coach and counselor, as the team tries to make it to the Homeless World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, providing insight as to the realities and reasons behind their current circumstances.
Finally, although baseball has had an extensive history as a demonstration event at the Summer games, it's the relative new kid on the block, only granted official medal status beginning with the 1992 Olympics. Jared Goodman's "Road to the Big Leagues" explores the importance of the game in the Dominican Republic, which leads Major League Baseball in providing the most foreign-born players. For young hopefuls, success at the game on a professional level is one of the only potential pathways out of a life of struggle and poverty.
EDITOR'S NOTE: "Indiewire @ Hulu Docs" is a regular column spotlighting the Iw-curated selections on Hulu's Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Indiewire selections typically appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under "Featured Content" in the center. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge. Disclosure: Some of the selections are titles provided to Hulu by SnagFilms, the parent company of Indiewire.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance and a consultant to documentary filmmakers and festivals. Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).