“Born To Play” Is A Groundbreaking Sports Documentary


Sports documentaries are, when they work, able to stir up something strong within you. The joy of victory and the agony of defeat are always cinematic, so when they can be depicted in a non-fiction format, focused on real competition, there’s strong potential on display. This weekend, a sports doc in Born to Play is seeking to draw some emotions out of you. Luckily, in finding such unique subject matter, the film more than succeeds. It’s hard to watch this flick and not be moved by what’s on display. The women within this doc are so compelling, and their drive to compete at the highest level is one we can all find enjoyment in. It’s a rock-solid effort that you can literally watch today.

The movie is, of course, a documentary about a women’s tackle-football league. Specifically, it’s a season spent with the Boston Renegades, a team hoping for redemption. Last year, they were defeated in the championship game after going undefeated, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. For everyone on the Renegades (and everyone in this league, as well), they’re all doing this for the love of the game. After all, these athletes are unpaid, and actually pay to play, while they work full-time careers, only putting their bodies on the line in their spare time. It’s a rousing tribute to lovers of football, and specifically these women, who are out to prove that the sport truly is for everyone. These are remarkable women, ranging in age from teenagers to middle-aged ladies (19-49 is the age group, I believe), from all kinds of backgrounds. They come together to dedicate their bodies, their money, and their time to pursue their passion for playing football. It’s a dream that’s impossible not to be moved by. Viridiana Lieberman directs.

There is a lot to like here. Even if you don’t care about football, the passion with which these women compete is inspirational. If you appreciate the sport, watching it depicted with this love is captivating as well. Like any good documentary, the subject matter doesn’t require you to be familiar with it or to have a predisposed like/dislike of it in order to work. Viridiana Lieberman’s film succeeds on its own merits, introducing you to the figures who populate the Boston Renegades and letting their personalities/plights take over. Lieberman keeps the focus tight and capably brings you into this world, so kudos there.

Born to Play is the kind of sports doc that can’t help but inspire. By the time it’s over, it’s hard not to imagine that you’ll be curious to watch a full game at some point. The Boston Renegades, despite little in the way of name recognition, in a town that worships sports (as you might imagine, the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox take up all the oxygen in the room), put out a quality product, and that goes a long way. These women are talented athletes, first and foremost, and their dedication to the sport is incredible to witness.

Today, sports fans and documentary cinema lovers have a really nice option showing right on your televisions when ESPN broadcasts Born to Play on ABC this afternoon. If you’re interested in the subject matter at all, you’ll likely enjoy this quite a bit. Even if you’re not, it’s so well done that you’ll easily get wrapped up in the tale. Whatever expectations you have, you can leave at the door. The athletes on display upend them on the field, and now, they can do it on your TV or computer screen as well. Take a look and you’ll almost certainly enjoy…

Be sure to check out Born to Play, showing on ABC today!

(Photos courtesy of ESPN)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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