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The 10th annual ReelAbilities Film Festival, the largest festival in the U.S. dedicated to exploring and celebrating the lives of people with different abilities, kicks off today, Thursday, March 8th, in New York City and runs through Wednesday, March 14th. One of the chief highlights at this year's festival is Rick Goldsmith's 2015 documentary, “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” which screened at last year's Ebertfest with Goldsmith in attendance. Holdsclaw is a sports superstar who will be inducted into the 2018 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this June. Her decision to open up about her experiences battling bipolar disorder have sent ripple effects through the industry, removing the stigma on mental health and inspiring other players, such as Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozen, to speak their truth as well. (See excerpts of Matt Fagerholm's review below)
“Mind/Game” screens today at 12pm ET at the York College Performing Arts Center; at 7pm Saturday, March 10th, at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan; at 7pm Sunday, March 11th at JCC Harlem; and at 7pm Tuesday, March 13th, at Lehman College Music Building.
At the opening night screening of Rachel Israel's Tribeca prize-winner, “Keep the Change,” Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”) will receive a Spotlight Award from The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. Among the other festival selections this year are Frank Steifel's Oscar-winning documentary short, “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405”; Robert Mullan's biopic “Mad to Be Normal,” starring David Tennant and Elisabeth Moss; and Zhang Wei's fact-based drama, “Ballad from Tibet.” For the full line-up, visit the official festival site.
Edited excerpts from the “Mind/Game” review originally published in the Ebertfest 2017 program booklet:
During the years of Michael Jordan’s second “three-peat” with the Bulls, a college basketball player named Chamique Holdsclaw was making history as well. Her three championships at the University of Tennessee caused some commentators to predict that she could become the next MJ. There’s no question the archival footage of Holdsclaw’s glory days are one of the chief highlights in Rick Goldsmith’s touching documentary, “Mind/Game,” yet the film is about a much deeper triumph. Something beyond her natural drive and ambition was fueling Holdsclaw’s momentum in these games, and it took a decade for her condition to be properly diagnosed. Would Holdsclaw have reached the success she did if she had been medicated? Perhaps not, but there’s no denying that her greatness comes first and foremost from the strength of her character.
Speaking out about one’s own mental illness as a female athlete of color is fraught with risks, and the strongest moments in Goldsmith’s film occur when he hones in on the insights Holdsclaw shares with others, whether she’s delivering a speech or teaching youngsters. An entire film could be built around Holdsclaw’s line about how minority communities refuse to accept the issue of mental health because they lack the resources to deal with it. “Praying it away” will do little more than lead one down the thorny path of denial. By confronting her own issues and opening up about them, Holdsclaw’s heroism transcends the boundaries of sports. Her advocacy stands as a counterpoint to the secrecy so well-observed in Peter Landesman’s under-appreciated “Concussion,” where profit is repeatedly prioritized over the health of players, even after so many have succumbed to brain damage. It is a testament to Goldsmith’s editing that “Mind/Game” doesn’t come off as a hagiography by gliding superficially through Holdsclaw's challenges.
With its superb score by Miriam Cutler and narration by Glenn Close, “Mind/Game” is an inspiring portrait of an extraordinary female warrior. The open-ended quality of the film’s ending is entirely appropriate since Holdsclaw’s story is far from over. I cannot wait for the sequel.
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