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5 SXSW films for athletes

Featuring two coming-of-age stories and the "hardest climb in the world"

What started out as a small music festival in 1987 has turned into a multi-pronged juggernaut, showcasing not just music acts (with 2,000-plus official performers this year), but the best in emerging technology and film. In this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival, on its 25th year and running March 9 to 17, festival goers can choose from nearly 300 narrative features, documentaries, shorts, episodics, and more. Here, five buzz-worthy sports-centric picks.


<i>chi-town</i>

Filmmaker and basketball fan Nick Budabin spent over four years trailing underdog high school basketball player Keifer Sykes as he rose from the courts of Chicago’s West Side to pursue his dreams of entering the NBA. The result is this intimate, moving 81-minute documentary, funded by Kickstarter, that explores what it takes to break through the tragic gun violence that plagues Chicago’s South and West Sides.
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<i>ali & cavett: the tale of the tapes</i>

Muhammad Ali appeared on the Dick Cavett Show over a dozen times and developed a fifty-plus year friendship with “the thinking man’s talk show host.” This 95-minute documentary showcases the life, times—and outspoken opinions—of one of the greatest sports figures in history, shown through archival show footage as well as new interviews with Cavett and other personalities like the Reverend Al Sharpton.
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<i>the dawn wall</i>

The Dawn Wall, a smooth, southeastern face on the vertical rock formation El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, is notoriously difficult, even with drilled bolts and ropes to haul climbers up. This 100-minute documentary directed by Emmy award-winning pair Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer traces the seemingly impossible ascent of legendary climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as they attempt to make the first free climb of what’s been dubbed the “hardest climb in the world.” Flashbacks and excerpts from the climbers’ private lives shed new light on what went on behind the record-setting climb.
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<i>time trial</i>

BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Finlay Pretsell once set out to become a professional cyclist. In this 81-minute documentary, he gets an insider’s take on the sport, riding in the peloton or support car to portray the final races of British cyclist David Millar, including Millar’s last Tour de France. “I want to be as close as possible to participating in the race with David,” Pretsell notes.
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<i>first match</i>

What began as a 15-minute short has been workshopped (in the Sundance Directors Lab) and turned into writer/director Olivia Newman’s first feature film. The 102-minute narrative follows Mo, a teenage girl from Brooklyn’s gritty Brownsville neighborhood, as she angles for her estranged father’s attention by joining an all-boys high school wrestling team.
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