From Friday, June 9th to Sunday, June 11th, holds the Canadian Sport Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Light Box. CSFF creates a platform for films and filmmakers that are not typically screened or viewed. Their mission is “Provoking dialogue on the power of sport to inspire social change”. We spoke to Russell Field, the Founder and Executive Director of the CSFF to grab all the scoop for this year’s festival and some advice to all young filmmakers wanting to showcase their own films.
Let’s begin with your impressive background as the Executive Director/Founder, enlighten us on your inspiration behind the creating of this event? It came to me one night when I was in Baltimore, which kind of sounds mysterious. There is a variety of personal inspirations but when I was finishing my Ph.D. I was using a lot of film in my work ( Historian of Sport) I would go to a lot of film festivals out of interest and there were always sport films and always seemed to attract crowds. They were talking about issues well beyond just sports. I was really intrigued by this.
What can attendees expect from this year’s festival? People can expect what we have kind of shown in the past, innovative films in really interesting ways. We have 23 films this year, 10 feature films and 13 short films. 22/23 have never been screened in Toronto before so there is original kind of content to what we do that speaks to our values of trying to use film about sports. Start a dialogue about broader issues around social change, human rights, and social justice. We had 160 films to look at this year to build this program into 23 films. Our opening night film is called “Keepers of the Game” it’s about a group of girls of Mohawk First Nations, in politically upstate New York, who wanted to found a lacrosse team, there has never been a lacrosse team in their high school. Not only is it a sport tied with historic indigenous culture but its also about challenging gender norms.
In regard to youth being inspired by these films, Can you give a word of advice to young filmmakers that want to specialize in sport documentaries? Send your films to us, we want to see what you are doing. We want young voices. The amazing thing that has happened with the proliferation of technology, is its so much more democratic. The technology young filmmakers use is higher tech than 20 years ago. There are people out there that tell great stories. We would love to see them.
Why is the Canadian Sport Film Festival so important to stand on its own? It’s important because we exist between the physical culture of sports and film in the arts. Often presumed as a disconnect there, tension. We love to make the argument that culture is embodied and to live that sports are a part of that culture. Sports have been talked about being the universal language, it’s a form of cross-boundary communication. We think we contribute to that dialogue.
Films you recommend this year that everyone needs to view? That’s like asking to pick my favorite child. I think our opening and closing night films are powerful. I told you about “Keepers of the Game” but “Crossing The Line” is about an Olympic hurdler, from Southern California that rose to the top prominence in track and field in the 1980’s. Then descended by his own admission of substance abuse and the real challenges. We are thrilled to have Danny Harris in Toronto that weekend to be closing with that film on June 11th. We are taking that film and Danny to a local high school on the morning of Friday, June 9th so that kind of outreach is important to us.
Not every demographic is athletically dominated or their interest doesn’t sway that way. How can we motivate others who normally would not take that push out of their comfort zone and take part in viewing sports documentaries? We are not going to put you on a treadmill,* jokes Russell*. These films are about sports in which can be a vehicle to tell a powerful story. Our festival is about storytelling, social justice, and human rights. Not films that compel the viewer to be physically active. We love it if people want to get motivated and see the value in that but one of our films is “Requiem for a Running Back”. Rebecca Carpenter created a film about her father, an NFL footballer player for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, then became a coach. The family and Rebecca discovered he had CTE a brain trauma that has been associated with concussions when he passed away. Though, he never had a concussion. They tried to unpack that you can get this disease even if you don’t have a concussion. This film challenges if even sports is good for us and revisits Rebecca’s relationship with her father to what the sport has done to her father.
We thank Russell for speaking with us and below you can find previews for this year’s films and the schedule. Rad + Raw hopes to see you there.