The Death Tour

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Each winter, when the lakes freeze over, a motley gang of professional wrestlers leaves Winnipeg on a one-of-a-kind wrestling trip through remote Indigenous communities of Northern Manitoba. Wrestling insiders call it the “Death Tour” – both for the physical hardships endured on the road and the emotional toll it takes on those who experience it. Famous for its star-studded alumni, the trip offers wrestlers a rare taste of fame and a chance to see if they have what it takes to make it in professional wrestling. But the tour goes both ways: as the wrestlers develop their skills they also provide entertainment for the communities in the dead of winter and form personal connections with audience members, especially the kids. From the taunting and body slams comes a warm documentary that travels through Canada’s frozen North and into the wrestlers’ minds as they battle the elements, each other, and the impacts of North America’s colonial past.


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. An intimate look at Israel Adesanya, the Nigerian born New Zealand based MMA champion, which goes beyond the ring and delves deep into an unlikely fighter’s journey. Exploring themes of masculinity, bullying and even the healing power of dance, this documentary is a poignant examination of the complex, exciting and sometimes controversial person known as “The Last Stylebender.” Zoe McIntosh traces Adesanya’s UFC career starting with his 2019 middleweight title win. In the process, she unwraps a fascinating portrait of the modern athlete, charismatic and complex in equal measure. Both MMA fanatics and those who have never seen a match will find Adesanya’s journey toward greatness captivating, engrossing, and illustrative of the larger-than-life personality you need to succeed in athletics.


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. New Jersey’s Jesselyn Silva, a three-time national boxing champion, is on her way to superstardom, dominating the junior ranks at the age of 15. With her every step of the way is her father, Pedro, a single parent who helps her navigate coaches, training schedules, and the angst of teenage life. She doesn’t believe anything will ever be too hard for her. The teenager has been training hard since she was seven to reach the top in a male-dominated world, and she’s confident that she’s as tough as the best of them. Pedro also knows how tough she is, which only makes him worry about her more when she’s in the ring. When a devastating diagnosis threatens the father-daughter tandem, the pair turn to each other to fight their greatest opponent yet: cancer. With great access to Jesselyn and her father, director Emily Sheskin tells a multi-year, incredibly moving story of passion, determination and resilience that goes beyond the ring.

Fielding Dreams

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

World Premiere. Fielding Dreams: A Celebration of Baseball Scouts documents up close the men and women searching for the ballplayers of tomorrow. Director H. James Gilmore goes beyond the “Moneyball mindset” and features dozens of interviews with some of the scouting legends of the game, including five who helped build the 2023 World Series Champion Texas Rangers. Traveling from Michigan to Florida, Illinois to Texas, and Georgia to Puerto Rico, Gilmore and producer Tracy Halcomb interviewed scouts over a four-year period against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. What follows is an intimate profile of a uniquely American profession – a profession now under threat from biometrics, analytics and the big business that rules the game.

In Attendance: H James Gilmore, Director; Tracy Halcomb, Producer; John Cedarburg, Colorado Rockies Scout

Copa '71

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

It is August 1971. Football teams from England, Argentina, Mexico, France, Denmark and Italy are gathering at Mexico City’s sun-drenched Azteca Stadium. The scale of the tournament is monumental: lavish sponsorship, extensive TV coverage, merchandise on every street corner and crowds of over 100,000 hollering fans turn this historic stadium into “a cauldron of noise and heat” match after match. A fawning media treat the players like rock stars. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the greatest moments in international soccer history. But this is a tournament unlike anything that’s happened before. The players on the pitch are all women. And it’s likely you’ve never even heard of it. This is Copa 71, the unofficial Women’s World Cup. Dismissed by both FIFA and domestic football associations around the world, this event has been entirely written out of history – until now. With the recent discovery of footage from that event, filmmakers Rachel Ramsay and James Erskine track down the players from across Europe and Latin America. For decades, these women scarcely had a chance to tell their story. But what a story they have to tell of battles on and off the field.The women were experiencing breakthroughs not only in sports, but also in understanding power, liberation, and self-fulfillment. With the support of Olympic gold medalists Brandi Chastain and Alex Morgan, who are interviewed, and Serena and Venus Williams, who serve as executive producers, Copa ’71 is both an emotional, action-packed sports story and a liberating outlet for the brave women who took part.

Humanity Stoked

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Featuring world-famous skateboarders, scientists, artists, musicians, activists and educators, all of whom are skateboarders. The iconic cast, respected as leaders in their fields, reveal their unique experiences and insights on being human. Their perspectives on issues that affect humanity’s ability to move forward together are shaped by their own backgrounds, and often inspired by their love of skateboarding. The conversations focus on understanding fear, depression, addiction, education, activism, philanthropy, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the environment. The film’s purpose is to inspire deeper thinking, more empathic perspectives, and open conversations about human issues.

Live Q&A with Producer/Director Michael Ien Cohen and cast member Chris Dyer.

Riders on the Storm

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Riders on the Storm captures a pivotal moment in Afghan history and offers a rare and visceral look at a ruthless sports culture where champions become marked men. Khaiber Akbarzada is on the verge of being hailed as Afghanistan’s best player of Buzkashi, the ancient national sport where horsemen battle for control of a headless goat. To many, the violence and opportunism on display in the arena are a metaphor for the country’s anything-goes politics – and the line between war and sport is starting to blur. As US forces begin their withdrawal, ending the longest war in American history, the Taliban is gaining ground. Twenty-five-year-old Khaiber achieves his goal of winning the national tournament and being named top rider in the land, but soon learns that fame is both a gift and a curse. As militants take over the country, they are targeting influential figures, forcing Khaiber to go into hiding to avoid the same fate as his uncle, a legendary buzkashi star who was assassinated during the civil war. Ultimately, Khaiber must make a choice that will alter the course of his life.

Motorcycle Man

2020 Sarasota Film Festival

Motorcycle Man’ is a short documentary about a man who has pursued a single passion in life: motorcycle racing. Dave Roper has raced every year since 1972, winning hundreds of races around the world and developing a reputation as a folk hero of the sport.

But Roper is hardly an adrenaline addict. He takes a philosophical approach to racing, viewing it as a test of mental and physical abilities. As he enters his twilight years, Roper reflects on the unconventional path he has followed in life, the dangers he has faced and the choices he has made.

‘Motorcycle Man’ follows Roper from a workshop in Brooklyn to his home on Long Island to a racetrack in Canada. Along the way he encounters autograph-seeking admirers, old friends and fellow racers eager to test their skills on the track. It also delves into Roper’s past, including his historic win at the Isle of Man TT in 1984, when he became the first American ever to win the notoriously dangerous race.

‘Motorcycle Man’ celebrates the speed, sweat and thrill of motorcycle racing, while offering a meditation on craft, obsession and what it takes to pursue your dreams.

WINNER – Best Short Film – 2019 Newburyport Documentary Film Festival WINNER – Bronze Remi Award – 2019 WorldFest Houston International Film Festival

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