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Movies of the Month: 2004, Page 2

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December 2004:

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Yiannis Kouros: Forever Running

2004, 60 minutes, Greek with English subtitles. For the last 20 years Yiannis Kouros has competed in ultra running better than all others. Finally his story is told through his own narration in this film documentary. Kouros has set 152 world records while competing in races such as Athens to Sparta, Sydney to Melbourne, 1,000 miles races, and 6 day events. As he points out, ultra running is a struggle against both nature and human endurance which takes on an almost metaphysical character.

Archival footage from ultra events are blended with Kouros speaking about his life experiences gained through running. This first person account is broken into sections ranging in time from two minutes to eleven minutes. Here are the section headings as they appear in this film: Ultra running, Childhood, Spartathlon: In the footsteps of Phidippidis, Inspiration, Immigrant in Australia, Family, Sidney-Melbourne, In Pursuit of the Record, Fear, Defeat, Death, and Olympics. The following quotes are taken directly from the subtitles, with Kouros providing the speaking.

Preparations:
  • "The verb ‘endure’ is not a physical verb, it's a spiritual one. Endure means to withstand…you must be patient and then do solid training. Without patience, you will never conquer endurance."
  • "I practice a couple of hours morning and evening with many breaks."
  • "I disagree with speed and quantities; I do quality training with rhythm depending on the race’s needs."
Racing:
  • "We are racing against nature, clock, time, distance…your body cannot carry you…to run for 24 or 48 hours or 6 days. No one completes the race via his body but via his mind."
  • "I eat every 20 min. I drink every 15 min in cold, 10 min in normal and 7 min in heat wave. All this while moving."
  • "When I run the 24 hrs, I never sleep; I hardly sleep on the 48 hrs unless I have an incredible need to, I sleep for only 10 min on the second night. I’ll rest for 10 min…no longer…I cannot afford to lose more time."
  • "I change my T-shirt every half-hour whilst running, without a second’s delay. When I pause it is for the bare minimum time waste."
  • "I ask for music on two occasions: When tired and need inspiration or when high and wish to be higher."
  • "When you are at your lowest, exhausted, having nails missing, knees blown up and a sore back you try to inspire yourself and overcome these obstacles."
  • "The day after the race, you feel like death itself, you're in bed and they drag you about, massaging you. You drink and get to the toilet ever so often as your kidneys have packed up…indescribable moments."
His Thoughts:
  • "In reality, I have lived all by myself and to date, I remain alone…I regard this as a privilege, this is how I gained, I discovered my strengths."
  • "The rational in doing such a sport, is to experience the extraordinary moments of ‘exceeding’. You cannot experience them in normal life."
  • "There is nothing more dear than your health, your life, and of course your family."
  • "I'd like to think myself as a messenger. I want to inspire, give the message that something is doable, it is not improbable…everything is possible as far as I am concerned as long as you go for it."
Kouros shares numerous lessons and we can all learn something about our own endurance, and life, through this film presentation. Others have awarded this film as it captured the 2nd Prize of the 6th Thessaloniki Documentary Section "Images of the 21st Century", for a documentary longer than 45 minutes. Elias Giannakakis wrote and directed this production with the musical score by Marios Aristopoulos. The only downfall to this production is that it has not been picked up by a large distribution company to be marketed beyond Greece. If you want to obtain this film for yourself try writting to Elias Giannakakis at geocat@otenet.gr and see what arrangements can be made for you. To view a complete list of records for both the road and track, as well as a short biography and gallery of images, visit Yiannis Kouros.com and to purchase this film visit ZombieRunner.com.

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Voted #2 Best Film

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November 2004:

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The Jericho Mile
He's running for his freedom...and his life.

Overview: Peter Strauss is Larry "Rain" Murphy, a man serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for killing his father. He finds his passion in running to escape his hopeless life he must lead and to free himself from the inmate tensions and power struggles. Murphy is then given a chance to train for the Olympics, a chance at glory, a chance at freedom. This dream comes to be known as the "Jericho Mile" as Rain Murphy trains and races to bring the walls of Folsom Prison tumbling down. With daily running, time trials, training with the college coach, the qualifying race, and the solo race finale you get a variety of running action packed into a realistic prision environment. This film goes beyond running with a wide variety of themes including personal sacrifice, friendship, racism, corruption, and violence.

Quotes:
  • "That man is out there on a regular basis; day in, day out, week in, week out, apparently running close to a four minute mile." ~Counselor to Warden
  • "Without me coaching you, without Captain Midnight filling your hoochy soul with funky inspiration, how are you going to be champion?" ~Stiles to Murphy
  • "I'll run, if you want me to run, I'll run; but you have to give me what I want."
    ~Murphy to Warden
  • "I'm going to grab the lead and hang onto it." ~Murphy to Coach
  • "You are running a game down on us. Before breakfast, before you finished breakfast, you decided I am not running in your race." ~Murphy to the Board
Cast and Crew: Director Michael Mann (Thief, Manhunter, Heat, The Insider), is a runner himself, who was a student of London’s International Film School. This was his first motion picture in a career that continues after three decades behind the camera. Mann adapted the orignal story by Patrick J. Nolan to create the screenplay. At age 32, lead actor Peter Strauss joined up with UCLA coach Jim Bush to prepare for his running role. It has been reported that Strauss got into condition to run a 4:30 mile and many of the runners who appear in this film were locals: Bob Deis, who lowered his mile time to 4:03 at Fresno State, Rick Denisik, who ran 4:06 for Sacramento State, and Adam Ferriea, a sub-2:20 marathon runner. All these athletes were done with their college eligibility at the time of filming and are not officially recognized in the credits of this film. The inmates that you see providing supporting roles and as extras were actually serving time at this facility.

Location: When most people think of the Folsom Prison they think of Johnny Cash singing "Folsom Prison Blues", written in 1956, and later recorded live at this prison in 1968. This film was shot entirely on location in the Prison which opened in 1880 as a maximum security facility and is the second oldest of the 33 prison facilities currently in operation in California. The track that was built within the five general population cell blocks for this film is still in use today, although a baseball diamond now shares the infield. The stone cells Murphy lived measure 4 feet by 8 feet and still use the cell doors that were made in the 1940s.

Additional Notes: This made for TV drama was originally broadcast March 18, 1979 by ABC and was later released on video cassette by several sources. The running scenes were shot silently and later the breathing and footstrikes were mixed into the soundtrack. The mile distance that they race in this film has never been contested in the modern Olympic Games; instead the 1500 meter distance is ran. In Europe, this 95-minute film was released in the theater and the musical scores are different depending on the release with Jimmie Haskell obtaining TV credit and James Di Pasquale tackling the theatrical version. In additon, the Rolling Stones appear with "Sympathy for the Devil" where Keith Richards plays an excellect lead guitar solo (he also plays the bass on this song) that many teams use as a "warm-up song" before competition. If you want to purchase this film visit Amazon.com to order a used copy or try bidding at one of the auction web sites. The DVD version is from the Netherlands and is in PAL format. These will not play on standard DVD players in the United States and Canada, although you may be able to play it on a multi-region or computer’s DVD drive.


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October 2004:

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Olympica: America's Gold. Volume One,
Great Moments of Track and Field
           An Official Olympic Centennial Video

Originally released in 1996 prior to the Atlanta Games, this 96 minute production features 18 running events and 9 field events. After a brief referrence to Jim Thorpe in 1912, the speed picks up during the 1932 Olympiad and continues to show one to three American athletes competing in each Olympiad (except the boycotted Moscow games of 1980) until Barcelona 1992. Five women are featured and although many segments run two to three minutes there are five segments that run for five minutes each: Jesse Owens, Rafer Johnson, Billy Mills, Bruce Jenner, and Jackie Joyner Kersey. Here are the runners listed here in chronological order, just as presented in this video:
  • Jim Thorpe: The decathlon winner in the 1912 games in Stolkholm.
  • Babe Didricksen: 80 meter hurdle champion in the 1932 Los Angeles games.
  • Jesse Owens: Qualifying, second round, and final in the 100 meters as well as the complete 4 x 100 meter relay where he ran the first leg.
  • Harrison "Bones" Dillard: 100 meters in 1948 and high hurdles in 1952 at age 29. He won four golds in all during Olympic competition.
  • Horace Ashenfelter: By winning the 3000 meter Steeplechase in Helsinki (1952) he became the first American to win an Olympic race longer than 800 meters since 1908.
  • 4 x 100 meter relay: The 1952 race where the United States edges the Soviet Union.
  • Wilma Rudolph: Competing in both the 100 and 200 meter sprint events in 1960 Rome.
  • Rafer Johnson: Highlighting the close competion between UCLA teammate C.K. Yang who represented Taiwan.
  • Bob Hayes: All the athletes in the Tokyo final are introduced in this 100 meter race.
  • Billy Mills: 9 athletes do not complete this 10,000 meter event as Mills runs into the history books as the only American to win this event as he sets a personal best time.
  • Frank Shorter: Returning to his birthplace in Munich in 1972, Shorter leads from 15K to the finish.
  • Bruce Jenner: In 1976 he sets a world record as he competed against 28 athletes from 18 countries.
  • Carl Lewis: His 1984 race was the largest 100 meter margin of victory in an Olympic games as he runs 9.99 seconds.
  • Edwin Moses: He extends his 400 meter hurdle race winning streak in winning his second gold medal in Los Angeles.
  • Joan Benoit: In competing against Grete Waitz, Ingred Kristansen, and the oldest track and field competitor at the 1984 games, Joyce Smith, Benoit breaks away early and maintains the gap to win the first women’s Olympic marathon.
  • Jackie Joyner Kersey: Each of the heptathlon events are shown from Seoul in 1988 as well as contrasted with the 1984 victory.
  • 4 x 100 meter relay: After all eight lanes are introduced, you see all the handoffs that end with Carl Lewis setting his 6th world record (37.40) in this event. Nigeria and Cuba round out the medal winners.
  • Gail Devers: Her 1992 100 meter victory of 10.82 leads her to the finish in front of Juliet Cuthberth, Irina Privalova, and Gwen Torrence.
America has known to produce a strong track and field team and this production does a good job in highlighting many outstanding American performances. Amazon.com generally has several suppliers who offer this video either new or used at a very reasonable price if you want to bring this video tape into your collection.


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September 2004:

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The Olympic Series
Golden Moments 1920-2002

In this Special Collector’s Edition 3 DVD set you will have access to six and a half hours of exciting Olympic footage. The three disks are entitled The Spirit of the Olympics, The Winter Games, and Olympic Highlights. The running footage can be found on the first and third disk and in all over 150 individual events have been selected. There is no DVD release that provides so much Olympic competition in one location. The menu leads you to specific races and you can select a language choice of either English or Français. For easy reference I display the running events in chronological order:
  • Antwerp 1920: Paavo Nurmi (Finland) 10,000 meters.
  • Paris 1924: Harold Abraham (Great Britain) 100 meters, Eric Liddell (Great Britain) 400 meters, Paavo Nurmi (Finland) 5000 meters.
  • Berlin 1936: Jesse Owens (United States) 100, 200, 4x100 Relay; Sohn Kee-Chung (South Korea) Marathon.
  • London, 1948: Herb McKenley (Jamaica) 400 meters, Fanny Blankers-Koen (Netherlands) 100 meters, 200 meters, 80 meter Hurdles, 4x100 Relay; Shirley Strickland (Australia) 100 meters and 100 meter Hurdles.
  • Helsinki 1952: Josy Barthel (Luxembourg) 1500 meters, Horace Ashenfelter (United States) and Vladimir Kazantsev (Russia) 3000 meter Steeplechase, Alain Mimoun (France) 5000 and 10,000 meters, Emil Zátopek (Czechoslovakia) 5000, 10,000, and Marathon.
  • Rome 1960: Otis Davis (United States) 400 meters and 4x400 meters, Peter Snell (New Zealand) 800 meters, Herb Elliott (Australia) 1500 meters, Murray Halberg (New Zealand) 5,000 meters, Abebe Bikila (Ethiopia) Marathon, Rafer Johnson (United States) and Yang Chuan-Kwang (Taiwan) Decathlon.
  • Tokyo 1964: Billy Mills (United States) 10,000 meters, Poland’s Women’s 4x100m Relay Team.
  • Mexico City 1968: Lee Evans (United States) 400 meters, Kip Keino (Kenya) 1500 meters, Irena Szewinska (Poland) 200 meters, Colette Bessen (France) 400 meters.
  • Munich 1972: John Akii-Bua (Uganda) 400 meter hurdles.
  • Montreal 1976: Alberto Juantorena (Cuba) 400 and 800 meters, Edwin Moses (United States) 400 meter hurdles, Bruce Jenner (United States) Decathlon.
  • Moscow 1980: Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett (Great Britain) 800 and 1500 meters.
  • Los Angeles 1984: Edwin Moses (United States) 400 meter hurdles, Daley Thompson (Great Britain) and Jürgen Hingsen (West Germany) Decathlon.
  • Seoul 1988: Carl Lewis (United States) 100 meters, Florence Griffith Joyner (United States) 100, 200, and 4x100 Relay; Jackie Joyner Kersee (United States) Heptathlon.
  • Barcelona1992: Linford Christie (Great Britain) 100 meters, Fermin Cacho Ruiz (Spain) 1500 meters, Kevin Young (United States) 400 Hurdles, Hwang Young-Cho (South Korea) Marathon, Ellen Van Langen (Netherlands) 800 meters, Hassiba Boulmerka (Algeria) 1500 meters, Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) and Elana Meyer (South Africa) 10,000 meters, Paraskevi Patoulidou (Greece) 100 meter Hurdles, Nigerian Women’s 4x100m Relay Team.
  • Sydney 2000: Haile Gebrsellasie (Ethiopia) 10,000 meters, Cathy Freeman (Australia) 400 meters.
With all the Olympic and World Record performances that are shown, it is interesting that notable Olympic accomplishments from runners such as Lasse Viren, Joan Benoit, Michael Johnson, and Marion Jones are not included in this compilation. Perhaps they are leaving some room for an additional release four years from now. For you field event fans be sure to catch Dick Fosbury, Ulrike Meyfarth, Bob Beamon, Sergei Bubka, and Al Oerter, to name a few. This production was made in Canada and is narrated by Robert Powell and on some of the segments you will see short interviews with the athletes. Amazon.com is a reliable source to order this film new or used.


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August 2004:

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Quest for the Gold
Sydney 2000 Olympic Highlights

Four years ago all eyes were turned to Sydney, Australia, and now with the Summer Olympic Games being hosted in Athens it is a good time to recall the accomplishments from the previous Olympiad. NBC host Bob Costas begins this 88 minute highlights tape from the news desk and from there you will only hear his voice as he narrates the action presented in a day by day format. In Sydney 10,651 athletes from 200 countries competed in 300 events in 28 sports.

Being one of 16 tapes produced from these games, there is no surprise that for a straight track and field exposure you will want to pick up Quest for the Gold: Track & Field which covers each event one at a time. The highlights tape is presented here to reveal what races were considered the most memorable and can also be found in this more generic coverage. Both of these tapes can be occasionally found on auction sites such as eBay and you can also put in a request to buy it used at Amazon.com if they do not have copies available to ship. Track coverage on the highlights tape starts on day nine, forty minutes into this production, after other sport coverage such as gymnastics, swimming, soccer, softball, cycling, basketball, equestrian, weightlifting, and trampoline (in it's Olympic debut) are shown. Here are the featured running highlights:
  • 100 meters: Marion Jones wins the women’s race, in the largest margin since 1952, in running away from the field with a time of 10.75. Maurice Greene captures the men’s race in 9.87 and then is shown in an interview dedicating the race to his coach, Olympian John Smith.
  • 400 meters: Kathy Freeman has the weight of her country upon her as she pulls away in the homestretch to win over Lorraine Graham of Jamaica. Freeman was also featured during the opening ceremony as she had the honor of being the final torchbearer. The men’s race featured Michael Johnson, in his golden shoes, becoming the first repeat champion at this distance with a time of 43.84.
  • 10,000 meters: It is sad that only the last 150 meters of this race, many consider it to be one of the top 10 Olympic races of all time, is shown. Although Paul Tergat of Kenya set the pace it is Haile Gebreselassie of Ethiopia that repeats by the smallest of margins as he ran 27:18:20.
  • 400 meter intermediate hurdles: Angelo Taylor is shown during the last two hurdles as he had to overcome lane one, as well as the wait for the photo finish results, to edge out Hadi Al-Samayli with a time of 47.50.
  • 200 meters: Greece celebrated with it’s second running gold medal, the first being the marathon victor in 1896, in the come from behind performance of Konstantinos Kenteris in 20.09. Marion Jones again dominated the women’s sprint by running 21.85, winning by the largest margin in this event since the Rome games in 1960.
  • 1500 meters: Both the women’s and men’s race is shown during the last 150 meters (these races deserve to be shown in full, especially on home video releases) as Nouria Merah-Benida from Algeria and Noah Kiprono Ngenya of Kenya win their respective races over formidable opponents, such as Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco who captures the silver.
  • Relay Events: The United States brings home gold in three of the four relay events with the coverage focused on Marion Jones, Maurice Greene, and Michael Johnson. With all the doping controversy this year it will be interesting to see if these results are ammended by the IOC.
  • Men’s Marathon: Kezahegne Abera brought back the fourth marathon title to Ethiopia when he cemented the victory with a surge away form Eric Wainaina of Kenya at the 25 mile mark.
During the last three minutes a montage is presented to classical music (including Gail Devers ending her hopes in the high hurdles and women’s marathon champion from Japan, Naoko Takahashi) that directly follows Bob Costas closing the main action with this quote: "In these 17 days we saw not only the great triumphs and the inevitable moments of heartbreak, but also moments of inspiration that can be found nowhere else except in sport. We witnessed the most famous athletes on the planet confirm their greatness and we had the chance to applaud those who labored for years in obscurity, whose talents were rarely seen by television audiences. They confirmed that the most important thing in the Olympics is to take part, to compete for the sake of the competition itself. This is what the Olympics are supposed to be about, great competition, sometimes some great surprises, and in the end at least some moments of great unity. And so to Sydney we say thank you for a memorable fortnight."


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July 2004:

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The African Runners

This 47 minute film was originally released in 1988 and then re-released in the popular 1996 eight tape collection of The Olympiad Greatest Moments by Dreamworks SKG Television in cooperation with the United States Olympic Committee. With Narrator David Perry providing background and direction throughout this documentary, there is ample time for athletes and coaches alike to provide their own commentary to the events discussed. 12 athletes from East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda) participated in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games where they did not win any medals. This tape chronicles the outstanding achievements that followed since these early runners created a solid foundation for other runners from Africa. The Olympic successes that began in Rome in 1960 are described in this video as "The most explosive forces on the international track and field scene". Here are the athletes who are highlighted in this video:

Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila: He was the first gold medal winner from Africa when he won the Olympic marathon while running barefoot over the cobblestones in Rome. Bikila repeated four years later in Tokyo, despite recovering from an appendix surgery. His coach described how his technique reflected a minimum of exertion, "Your head should float- never should the head go up and down. While the other marathoners were running, Abebe Bikila was floating." The marathon attempt in the 1968 games on a broken foot are shown as well as the ending of his life at age 41in 1973, following the car accident that left him paralyzed in 1969. About 12 minutes of this tape is dedicated to this national hero.

Kenya's Kip Keino: From the Nandi Tribe in the highlands comes this versatile distance runner who competed in three Olympic games. In 1964 he placed fifth in the 5,000 meters and was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 1500 meters. Returning during the Mexico City games there was team strategy with Ben Jipcho sacrificing himself by taking the field out very fast for the first two laps. Top ranked American Jim Ryun moved from 10th place to finish second, far behind Keino. Jipcho finished 9th and states "It was very good for Kenya, but unfair for other guys." Keino's steeplechase and 1500 meter race in Munich from 1972 is also highlighted during the end of this fifteen minute segment.

Uganda's John Akii-Bua: This 400 meter hurdler became the first gold medalist in the Olympics from Uganda when he beat defending champion Dave Hemery in the 1972 Munich final while racing in lane one. Akii-Bua was also the first African to earn a gold medal at a distance less than 1500 meters as he set a World Record in this race by clocking 47.82.

Ethiopia's Mamo Wolde: Five minutes is used to track his tale from Melbourne in 1956 to the marathon race competed on October 20th, 1968 by 72 starters from 44 countries. Wolde asked to join the marathon a day prior to the event after winning a silver medal in the 10,000 meters having run on an infected toe. Finally, he became an Olympic Champion at age 36.

The African Runners ends with the story of John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania who, despite being bloodied and bandaged from a bad fall, courageously finishes the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Marathon and exhibits the true spirit of the Olympic Games. In watching this film you may find a sense that these athletes trained hard, were thoughtful in their approach, and persevered though difficult times both before and after their successes at the Olympics. Although you may find this tape sold individually on an auction site, it is more likely that you can find the entire 8-tape collection available at a reasonable price.


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