The Canadian Sport Film Festival sprints to Toronto for its ninth year. This weekend (Friday, June 9 – Sunday, June 11), audiences will be able to watch a diverse selection of feature films, documentaries, and short films about athletic subjects and themes.
Wylie Writes’ Shannon Page received a sneak peek of the festival by watching the Emmy-award winning opening night selection Keepers of the Game, along with a haunting doc titled Hillsborough.
Keepers of the Game (DIR. Judd Ehrlich)
Keepers of the Game is a thoughtful, meditative exploration of gender, heritage, and identity.
The documentary follows a group of indigenous girls from a local Mohawk reservation as they become the first Girls Varsity Lacrosse team at their local high school. Though their reservation is the birthplace of lacrosse and the sport is deeply rooted in their culture and spiritual beliefs, the girls face resistance from within their own community. Traditionally, lacrosse is played only by men and women were once forbidden from even touching a stick. The lack of support is just one of the struggles that the team faces as budget cuts and rival teams threaten to put an end to the program before it even begins.
While the finale of Keepers of the Game is rather predictable, it manages to dig deep into its themes and characters, ultimately showing how both a respect for traditional values and willingness to change are needed for indigenous communities to combat the damages of colonialism. The history of lacrosse and its connection to the Mohawk people and their identity is emphasized throughout the film, but Keepers of the Game is primarily focused on the players themselves. Lacrosse becomes a catalyst for self-discovery and self-confidence; it is impossible not to root for these young women as they come to terms with their place within their communities and within society.
Catch Keepers of the Game at Toronto’s Canadian Sport Film Festival on:
Friday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Hillsborough (DIR. Daniel Gordon)
In April of 1989, 96 football fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, England during a semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forrest. The disaster is the worst in the history of British sport: more than 700 people were injured in addition to those who lost their lives.
Hillsborough not only examines the circumstances that led to the horrific event, but also the aftermath of the tragedy and the way that the British government and media responded. While the fans themselves were accused of causing the disaster with their drunken hooliganism, the design of the stadium itself and poor planning and leadership by an inexperienced police supervisor were the primary culprits. Much of the focus of the films final half centers on the struggles of the families of the victims and survivors to have the truth recognized.
Surprisingly candid and emotional interviews with families, survivors, and police punctuate this polished and cohesive documentary. One doesn’t have to be a football fan, or even a sporting fan, to be affected by the stories of the people that were impacted – one way or another – by the events at Hillsborough. The film also makes smart use of news footage and photographs from the event itself to create a final product that is haunting and moving in equal measure.
Catch Hillsborough at Toronto’s Canadian Sport Film Festival on:
Saturday, June 10 at 6:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
The Canadian Sport Film Festival screens from Friday, June 9 to Sunday, June 11.
Click here for more details!