Since being one of the driving forces behind 2006’s critically acclaimed documentary feature ‘Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos’, ESPN’s film unit has blossomed into a world leader. If the Academy Award-winning ‘When We Were Kings’ set the ball rolling for cinema-quality documentary films, then ESPN are now this genre’s leading light. And the upcoming schedule of films on ESPN Classic, showing Saturday and Sunday nights throughout the month, more than live up to that billing.
Films in May:
30 FOR 30 The Two Escobars, Saturday 04th, 11:05pm: While rival drug cartels warred in the streets and the country’s murder rate climbed to highest in the world, the Colombian national soccer team set out to blaze a new image for their country. What followed was a mysteriously rapid rise to glory, as the team catapulted out of decades of obscurity to become one of the best teams in the world. Central to this success were two men named Escobar: Andrés, the captain and poster child of the National Team, and Pablo, the infamous drug baron who pioneered the phenomenon known in the underworld as “Narco-soccer.” But just when Colombia was expected to win the 1994 World Cup and transform its international image, the shocking murder of Andres Escobar dashed the hopes of a nation.
30 FOR 30 One Night in Vegas, Sunday 05th, 11:05pm: On the evening of Sept. 7, 1996, Mike Tyson, the WBC heavyweight champion, attempted to take Bruce Seldon’s WBA title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. At this point in his career, Tyson’s fights had become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, where the ever present hype of the professional boxing scene would come face to face with the worlds of big business, Hollywood, and hip hop. Sitting ringside was controversial rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur and Tyson were friends, a feeling of kinship linked them as each rose to stardom from poverty only to be thrown in prison. Following Tyson’s victory, Shakur and “Iron Mike” were to celebrate at an after party, but the rap star never arrived. Shakur was brutally gunned down later that night, and the scene in Las Vegas quickly turned from would-be celebratory revelry to ill fated and inopportune tragedy. Director Reggie Bythewood, with the full cooperation of Mike Tyson, will tell not only the story of that infamous night but of the remarkable friendship between Tyson and Tupac.
30 FOR 30 The 16th Man, Saturday 20th, 10:15pm: The story of New Zealand and South Africa at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Rugby has long been viewed in South Africa as a game for the white population, and the country’s success in the sport has been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the 50-year-old policies and entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
30 FOR 30 Muhammad and Larry, Sunday 05th, 12:10am: In October of 1980 Muhammad Ali was preparing to fight for an unprecedented fourth heavyweight title against his friend and former sparring partner Larry Holmes. To say that the great Ali was in the twilight of his career would be generous; most of his admiring fans, friends and fight scribes considered his bravado delusional. What was left for him to prove?
In the weeks of training before the fight, documentarians Albert and David Maysles took an intimate look at Ali trying to convince the world and perhaps himself, that he was still “The Greatest.” At the same time, they documented the mild-mannered and undervalued champion Holmes as he confidently prepared to put an end to the career of a man for whom he had an abiding and deep affection.
Joe Fraizer: When the Smoke Clears, Saturday 10th, 11:05pm: Growing up in the 1970s, as a sports mad kid, waiting for the latest pay-per-view fight between the greatest triumvirate of heavyweights – Frazier, Foreman & Ali was anticipated almost as much as Christmas Day. Back then Boxing Day meant a whole different thing.
All three great world champions had been Olympic gold medalists and all three had lifted boxing to its highest level of competition, drama and courage. These were the days of savage fifteen-rounders and no standing eight count; when boxing legends really were legendary boxers.
Jose Mourinho – The Best Coach in the World, Sunday 11th, 11:05pm: One of the most successful managers in modern football, Jose Mourinho is also one of the most controversial. ESPN Classic’s network premiere documentary, The Best Coach in the World takes a thorough look at the successful career of “The Special One”, offering viewers a detailed insight into the world of a top level manager.