Feel-Good Movie of the Summer

June 20, 2012 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

Director's Cut Host Charles Monroe-KaneDirector’s Cut host Charles Monroe-Kane joins the blog today with this guest post about “Passing the Baton.” Watch the film and an interview with Director Ryan Sarnowski on Wisconsin Public Television at 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 22 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, June 26.

I like feel-good movies in general. I like heart-felt. Compassion. Nemo and his father reuniting. “The Straight Story” and “Almost Famous” are two of my favorite films. I know, whatever. But I get chills just thinking about the “Tiny Dancer” scene in “Almost Famous.” But nothing beats earnest documentaries. Nothing’s better than the beauty of real life. Nothing.

Take Crystal White. She’s the executive director of the Joe Sims Milwaukee Striders Track Club. She took over the club from the late Joe Sims, who ran it tirelessly for 30 years. In fact, he didn’t just run it. He started the club to give poor, mostly black, inner city children an opportunity to get track scholarships to college. Some big names have come out of the club. Past Striders include NFL running backs Michael Bennett and Brian Calhoun, professional track star Demi Omole, Olympic sprinter Esther Jones, and Robert Hackett, an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks. But most are just normal kids who can run fast enough or jump long enough or throw far enough to rise out of poverty and go to college.

And check this out…

In a city where 69 percent of children graduate from high school, 90 percent of Striders graduate high school and attend college, with many of them earning partial or full athletic scholarships. Amazing.

When the folks at Doc UWM School heard that Joe Sims was dying they did what a documentary school should do. They got their students together and made a film. A film about a group of kids from Milwaukee trying to make it to Nationals. A film about the legacy of Sims, a Wisconsin hero. A film about teenagers goofing around. A film about hard work. A film about shoes.

When Michael Bennett first came to track practice in taped-up winter boots Joe dug through his pile of used running shoes and found a pair that fit. And when Bennett outgrew them, they went back into the pile. Imagine being eight years old, and being handed a pair of shoes that Michael Bennett wore. Imagine the thrill and the inspiration. It’s a little bit of the thrill I felt watching this film.

The baton has been passed.

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