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Tribeca's must-see sports films

Boxing drama, surfing in extreme elements, unsolved murders, and more

The 16th annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City (April 19-30) will host 98 feature films, 58 shorts, 15 TV shows, and 30 virtual reality projects. This year also marks the 11th annual ESPN Sports Film Festival, where films dedicated to sports and competition will be showcased. Movie-goers can expect a wide array of topics including stories of well-known athletes, motherhood, and underdog champions. Here, 14 top picks to add to your list.

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  • CHUCK

    CHUCK

    Boxing fans are in for a treat: This 99-minute feature directed by Philippe Falardeau follows the life of Chuck Wepner, the heavyweight boxer who inspired the wildly popular Rocky film series. Wepner is known for fighting all the greats in his 10 years in the ring, including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and an actual live bear. Elizabeth Moss, who stars in Mad Men, plays Wepner’s stern wife. Learn more

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  • MIKE AND THE MAD DOG

    MIKE AND THE MAD DOG

    The 10-time Emmy Award-winning director and producer Daniel H. Forer shows a different side of sports with this 60-minute documentary, which chronicles the relationship between radio show hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo. The movie follows the rise, struggles, and eventual fall of the duo's 19-year relationship on air. Former colleagues and athletes weigh in on the history of the show. Learn more

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  • NO STONE UNTURNED

    NO STONE UNTURNED

    Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney opens a cold case in this thrilling sports murder mystery. The 111-minute feature follows the Loughinisland massacre, where six men were killed (and five more injured) in a small pub in the Irish town after the country beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup soccer match. No one was ever found guilty of this crime and Gibney introduces new evidence. Learn more

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  • SAMBÁ

    SAMBÁ

    Directed by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, this 90-minute film puts the spotlight on boxer Francisco “Cisco” Castillo. When he returns to the Dominican Republic after being incarcerated for 15 years in the United States, Cisco finds it difficult to get a job. As a result, he resorts to illegal street fighting to make some quick cash. Along the way he meets Nichi, an Italian ex-boxer, who thinks the former inmate has a real shot at becoming a champion. Learn more

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  • THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF WALLY AND THE WORM

    THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF WALLY AND THE WORM

    This 16-minute short directed by Colin Hanks follows the unlikely friendship between Dennis Rodman and a young assistant trainer, Wally Blasé, when Rodman was playing for the Chicago Bulls. After Rodman hurt his knee just four weeks before the '96-'97 NBA championship season, Blasé was assigned to his speedy rehabilitation. The heartwarming tale is part first-person confessions and part animation. Learn more

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  • RUN MAMA RUN

    RUN MAMA RUN

    This 33-minute documentary follows elite track athlete Sarah Brown as she trains through pregnancy with the help of her husband (and trainer) Darren Brown. Directed by Daniele Anastasion, the short aims to explore the relationship between motherhood and athleticism. Learn more

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  • REVOLUTION IN THE RING

    REVOLUTION IN THE RING

    In 1962, Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson chose not to defect to the United States and instead stay in his home country. This 23-minute short directed by Jason Sklaver examines Cuban-American relations through the lens of sports. Learn more

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  • BUMP & SPIKE

    BUMP & SPIKE

    Director Michael Jacobs is not new to sports films (he also directed two other ESPN shorts: The High Five and The Pittsburgh Drug Trials). In this 16-minute documentary, Jacobs explores what happened to the International Professional Volleyball Association, which lasted from 1975-1980. The time, albeit brief, was filled with star athletes and lots of wild parties. Learn more

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  • RESURFACE

    RESURFACE

    This haunting 22-minute short follows an Iraq war veteran who wants to cross surfing off his bucket list in the face of suicidal thoughts. Josh Izenberg and Wynn Padula, the directors of the documentary, were nominated for an Academy Award for their short, Slomo. Learn more

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  • UNDER THE ARCTIC SKY

    UNDER THE ARCTIC SKY

    Surfing takes on an extreme dimension in this 39-minute documentary. Director Chris Burkard follows a group of surfers as they head to Iceland to catch perfect waves during what ends up being the largest storm to hit the coast in 25 years. Learn more

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  • THE RUGBY BOYS OF MEMPHIS

    THE RUGBY BOYS OF MEMPHIS

    Director David Darg was a contributor to CNN, BBC, and Reuters, where he covered war and natural disasters for 10 years. In this 13-minute short documentary, Darg departs from these themes to examine the rise of an inner-city rugby team in Memphis and what it means to band together. This documentary is a part of Tribeca’s “S.O.S” series, which features shorts about helping others when times are tough. Learn more

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  • THE GOOD FIGHT

    THE GOOD FIGHT

    Another documentary in the “S.O.S.” series, this 15-minute short directed by Ben Holman follows Alan Duarte, who opens his own boxing gym in Rio de Janeiro after suffering a personal tragedy. Durante aims to give his violent community hope and redemption through the sport of boxing. Learn more

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  • ALIVE

    ALIVE

    Facing the end of his career, a 100-meter sprinter decides to take on one last challenge by competing against his rising-star brother. This 15-minute narrative is directed by Sung Hwan Kim and is also part of the “Your Heart’s Desire” series. Learn more

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