Great acting has no color. And Race is a word with two meanings. RACE is a must see, that film the Academy will see deserving of awards not just accolades. RACE tells the viewer the ‘rest of the story’ that journalists, governments and lobbyists did not want told about rights, and wrongs, before ‘civil’ became part of the discourse along with showing audiences the FIFA scandal in soccer was not a ‘one off’ never before occurred happenstance. As far back as the 1936 Olympics, human rights were background chatter to agendas of billionaire movers and shakers.
RACE is a pivot, as tech uses to describe change. RACE the movie gives audience pause to see more change will come, good change if led by men, and women, of self determined vision and cause.
One meaning of RACE is for a "competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course." The second meaning of RACE defines as a "group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic shared traits."
There is now a third definition for RACE, this movie snippet of Jesse Owens life, says it all, race, a distinctive man with traits of persistence wins, shines. The Jesse Owens story, a memory to fewer these days, is history that if not remembered, repeats itself. Lead actor Steven James acknowledged he learned the model of Jesse Owens from being chosen to play the role, expressing, James said, his role will become the model for people of all color to aspire to.
J.C. Owens, a 20 something the world came to know as Jesse Owens, brought home 'the gold,' 4 to be exact, Olympic gold medals proving superiority in race, is a quality a man is borne with.
Focus Features presentation, RACE the movie, premiered in DC at the Newseum, one floor below and down from the iconic site housing moments including the three years in a life of a simple man who did something extraordinary. Luminaries walked the red carpet. Icons did two.
Gloria Owens, Jesse's oldest daughter joined the actors and director. Congressman John Lewis did, too. Lewis is the last of the Selma bridge walkers for civil rights, still living. Dr. King and all Lewis' other activists are gone. Lewis told me he stands alone these days, hearing fading footsteps where friends once walked.
Director Stephen Hopkins, in association with the Jesse Owens a foundation and the a luminary a group of a Solofilms/Trinica/Trinity Race production, brought together a stellar ensemble with distinction of reminding our world we have not changed, decades after the Holocaust, World War II, World War I, man disappoints. Producer Luc Dayan wanted a movie about Jesse Owens made. The Jesse. Owens Foundation agreed. RACE would be the first feature film made about Owens. Owens wife, Ruth Solomon and Jesse's three daughters conveyed the spirit of the movie they would bless to commemorate Jesse's achievement.
Three years was the prism Hopkins saw to frame his film around- collegian to Olympian- honing in on the teaching lesson Hopkins sought, a world in chaos the business of sports deliberately turned its eye away from seeing.
J.C. Owens was a college age kid, 19-22, shouldered with talent and responsibility. J.C. Owens was a runner, more correctly, a Depression era athlete.
At Ohio State University, Owens met a mentor able to pursue a dream that Owen's mentor, Larry Snyder, played by Jason Suedeikis, had lost his opportunity to go for Olympic gold. Then one day, opportunity walked in Snyder's collegiate office door. Snyder, from the first time Snyder saw Owens run, knew that he, Snyder, had a second chance at that gold Snyder missed due due to a near fatal accident caused by youthful exuberance defying eternity. Snyder's teammate got the four gold medals that Snyder resented losing the opportunity to win. Suedeikis is a DC boy, as is said here in the Capitol. Suedeikis hails from across the Potomac, from Virginia.
Canadian actor Stephan James plays the college age Owens, shouldering responsibility of school and child. Intent on bettering life for his child, James Cleveland pushes limits of patience in a world where even though he was superior as an athlete he was reminded he had imposed limitations, racism- back of the bus, separate door entrances in a world where colored was second class.
James' track coach, Larry Snyder, recognized the thoroughbred inside the young J.C. Owens, challenged Owens with the bait of 1936 Olympic competition. The Olympics were due to be run in Germany. the American Olympic committee knew of the Nazi agenda to prove their racial superiority at the upcoming games. The Olympic committee debated participating in the German Games.
They, the Olympic Committee knew of the Nazi horrors, yet chose to turn a blind eye, in the name of sport. The Games are about business. The Games went on. The horrors of did, too. Masters of deception, the Nazis, in agreement with Olympic Committee envoy millionaire industrialist Avery Brundage, played by Jeremy Irons, cleaned Berlin up to look embracing of all cultures, colors and religions. Masters in sleight of blackmail, the Nazis played a card that came back as blackmail of Brundage to force the two Jewish runners out of their relay race, a play intended to remind Brundage the Nazis intended to win.
Owens had won three gold medals. A black man's simple act of feet that moved faster than the wind took the bravado out of the the Nazi agenda for Aryan superiority. Blackmailing Brundage failed the Nazis intent to block America running Jews in the international sporting games, Jewish inclusion being a condition America conceding to send athletes to the Games.
Brundage had mixed emissary agenda with business by accepting a building commission, from the Nazis to build the German embassy in Washington DC.
Truths live on in films even in Nazi propaganda films. The story of Lena Riefenstahl is largely unknown but as the Nazi filmmaker told Owens, the film will keep Owens accomplishments living long after the world moves past Owens momentous moment.
Four golds did not discrimination end. Owens came back stateside to a country split by segregation. For Owens, for Ruth, for their daughters, things like separate doors had not changed, a full circle explanation of why the Newseum was well suited to host the DC screening. Media is an eye on man.
Leni Riefenstahl's films recorded a legend being born, a hero knowing his selfless act of helping his Nazi defined enemy make a world record, again. Lenin was played by Game of Thrones Carice Van Houten.
Stephan James is superb as Jesse Owens, endearing as a father of an out of ended lock child committed to responsibility of his daughter a nd marrying his childhood sweetheart until a wealthy flash in the pants distracted him long enough for him to realize Ruth was his rock. Ruth, played by Shanice Banton brings a delightful mix of child and woman to the story. Owens parents portrayal shows the fiber woven in to Owens character, the stoic strength of his father and the practical devotion of his mother.
So the story of Jesse Owens lives on, a shoe-in for award season's best of actor, best actress, best film, and more of what was raised as issue this honors season. The legacy of Jesse Owens sat stage center pre- the Newseum screening. An eloquent tiny woman, silver hair, spoke. The room listened. Simplicity. Eloquence. Elegance. Jesse’s girl…..
If I could add one thing to the movie it would be a prelude and finale of Gloria speaking of Dad. Hang around the beehive called DC long enough one learns that people forget heroes have anchors and living legacies.
As Gloria walked past me on the rope line, I had nothing to ask of her, watching her until she came close enough. I had something to say. I said, “Thank you for sharing your father with history.” The clutch of her hand, the twinkle in her eye, the upturn of her mouth, we got it, black & white. RACE is about how one crosses the finish line not about being first or last.
RACE already swepts next red carpet season.