Documenting sports

Sports are cultural events, which bring society together like no others. For decades, documentary filmmakers have been capturing sports and sports related events, finding compelling stories to tell. Below is a list of five of my favourite sports documentaries.

On Any Sunday (1971) —
With the documentary On Any Sunday, filmmaker Bruce Brown captures the amateur motorbike racing spirit perfectly, like no other filmmaker has. He presents the sights and sounds of the event and narrates the pictures to tell a compelling and engaging story. He makes you wish you were there, racing your bike around the track.

Senna (2010) —
Ayrton Senna da Silva is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, F1 driver that ever lived. After his life was tragically cut short in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix, strict regulations were put on F1. As a result, he is the last driver to have died in an F1 accident. Senna is considered to be so good because he excelled in poor weather and was able to push his cars beyond their mechanical limits. Through interviews, narration, television footage and home video recordings, Senna tells an interesting story about Ayrton’s life and racing career.

The Art of Flight (2011) —
Director Curt Morgan has a passion for snowboarding. Rumored to cost around $2 million to create, The Art of Flight is as much about beautiful cinematography and scenery (akin to Life, Planet Earth and Human Planet) as snowboarding. I’m not a snowboarding fan, but the film managed to engage me in the imagery of the sport. Sweeping shots of mountains in Alaska and a sound track by M83 grabs you, compels you and even moves you. Whenever someone asks me to recommend a cool sport documentary, I tend to show them this. Yes, there are films that I like better, but for pure cinematic achievement and beauty, The Art of Flight is top dog.

Hoop Dreams (1994) —
Hoop Dreams is often cited as not merely one of the best sports documentaries, but one of the best documentaries of all time. William Gates and Arthur Agee are two African American basketball players from the projects in Chicago. They are extremely talented players and have hopes of becoming stars. Unfortunately they have a lot in their way. A drug addicted father, injury and poverty are just some of the obstacles the boys face as they attempt to follow their dreams.

Love the Beast (2009) —
Actor Eric Bana is a car nut. Ever since his teenage years, he and his friends have worked on a 1974 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop. The film is about Bana and his mates getting the car race-ready for Targa Tasmania — a road car race in Tasmania, Australia. Ostensibly about car racing, the film ends up being much, much more. It’s about the relationship Bana has with his car, and while his love/hate/obsession seems a bit strange, it’s quite touching. Everyone has a sentimental object in his or her life — Love the Beast is about Bana’s.