There’s nothing Philadelphia loves more than its sports teams.
On any given night of the week, in any bar from South Philly to Old City, sports fans from around the city can be found drunkenly cheering on their city’s elite athletes. From Philly’s amateur teams to its professional ones, the fans are known for their rowdy, unrelenting hometown support.
With such a reputation, Philadelphia was the obvious choice to host the first U.S. Sports Film Festival.
“Philadelphia has a great tradition of sports from the amateur through the professional and is one of the nation’s fastest-growing markets for the film industry,” said festival spokesperson Joe Favorito.
The film series will include classics like The Natural, a Barry Levinson film in which Robert Redford’s character went from being an average baseball player to a legend with almost supernatural talent. Invincible, the Mark Wahlberg-led drama about a bartender who made the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles team, and Miracle, the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team overcoming the odds and beating the Soviet Union, will also be featured.
The festival will also include new films like Basketball in the Barrio, the story of two former University of Texas at El Paso basketball players who created a program teaching the sport to immigrant children, and Kicking It, a documentary about a team of homeless soccer players.
Following the films will be Q&A sessions with various writers, directors, athletes and producers who have been involved in bringing the stories of great sports heroes to the big screen.
In addition to films about America’s classic pastimes like baseball and football, the series will showcase films about new sports crazes, like Renzo Gracie: Legacy, a documentary about mixed martial arts.
Beginning on Oct. 23 and continuing throughout the following four days, the festival will open with a half-day seminar addressing issues that sports event companies, film festivals and film talent will face in the industry. These issues will also be tackled during a series of panels on sports and entertainment business law, with celebrity participants as well as “top legal minds” in attendance.
“The festival is the brainchild of Steve Hartman, a longtime fan of film and sports who saw a huge hole in the space to recognize both classic and new films about sports, which remains one of the largest industries worldwide,” Favorito said.
It will also include three one-hour panels on representing talent in television, legal aspects of producing films, intellectual property rights and film festivals. A slew of guest panelists, including Mark Ciardi, the award-winning producer of Invincible, Miracle and The Rookie, and Bonnie Bernstein of ABC Sports and ESPN, will be in attendance.
“Philly is so emotional when it comes to sports. When a Philly team is down, the city is lousy,” said senior BTMM major Tyler Beck. “When they’re winning like the Phillies, everyone is alive. That’s the kind of city you want to hold a sports film festival in.”
Garrett Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.