You may find yourself nodding vigorously when a commentator on “Citizen Ashe” calls the tennis match “the brightest and most fascinating tactical match I’ve ever seen.” You can also hum shut up dudeI need to focus the gameThis was the year when tennis reigning men’s champion and very bad boy Jimmy Connors stepped onto the turf at Wimbledon to play an opponent he had never lost: Arthur Ashe. Connors had won the tournament a year ago and is now the 3v2 favourite.
Let me pamper you: Ashe prevailed, surpassing Connors to become the first African-American man to win Wimbledon. Directors Rex Miller and Sam Pollard cunningly mock this epic showdown at the beginning of their gripping, politically astute documentary portraits. When they got back, the movie explored Ashe’s personal life and charted her ascent into the tennis stratosphere during Jim Crow. Ashe was already a veteran pioneer with numerous victories and milestones in 1975. He became the first Black man to win the US Open. His ranking has since plummeted, and he was ten years older than Connors on the verge of his 32nd birthday.
It may seem hard to believe, but as I understand it, “Citizen Ashe” is the first full-fledged documentary film about this American legend. Film site IMDB lists a number of television credits in which Ashe’s name has been added to various special episodes and episodes, including her appearance on “The Rosey Grier Show” in 1969 and a guest role on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1980. There are also some kids specials and a few TV movies, but that’s about it. In contrast, I can erase the names of many feature films that tell the story of Muhammad Ali, both in documentaries like “When We Become Kings” and in dramas like “Ali,” the fictional Blessing of Michael Mann starring Will Smith. .
The relative scarcity of movies about Ashe speaks to who the industry believes is worthy of respect, including which Black heroes. For example, Smith is the star of another new movie, “King Richard.” Richard Williams plays the coach and patriarch of Venus and Serena. It’s the kind of underdog story that Hollywood likes to tell, and it gives Smith some compelling scenes where Williams tramples and hurls white people who don’t understand what he’s doing. Ashe’s story certainly has its moments of great drama and high tension, but as a sports figure, she inspired decidedly undramatic nicknames like “the gentle warrior.” This documentary shows you a more real, sharper picture.
You understand why she earned that title in the warm, sympathetic “Citizen Ashe,” and also why there’s more to her. At a slightly over-compressed hour and a half, the film follows a familiar yet eye-opening trajectory that really escalates when Ashe discovers tennis. His family lived in a house in a segregated park in Richmond, Va., which his father oversaw. The grounds included a swimming pool and baseball fields, as well as tennis courts that Ashe watched Black men and women play on, which she soon chose. as much as a racket.
It didn’t take long for Ashe to win and regain, inaugurating a career that the filmmakers seamlessly laid out with the original source and excellent archival material. There are some images from Ashe’s childhood that were a delight, and of course, more photos and shots as genius becomes a dominant force. The film follows Ashe’s formative years in tennis with Dr. He traces this progression, noting how he was influenced by Robert Walter Johnson. Althea GibsonFirst African American tennis player to win Wimbledon. (Rex Miller also directed the documentary “Althea.”)
There’s a lot to love about “Citizen Ashe,” who at times (understandably) seems ready to succumb to full-fledged legend. Ashe was smart, beautiful, and his widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, is one of the producers. If the documentary never faltered, it’s because the filmmakers knew better (Pollard is credited with “”MLK/FBI”). And Ashe’s story makes it impossible to put a happy face on her achievements. She crossed the color line in her own stubborn, sometimes revealing way, smiling gently in turn, absorbing incredible abuses and telling the truth to power, destroying one white smile after another with fierce, sometimes delight.
Not rated. Run time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In movie theaters.