The movie Race, about the life of legendary track star Jesse Owens premieres Friday, February 19th in theaters around the country. It’s a timely film that reminds us of Owens’s amazing accomplishments during a time in world history when black people were afforded little to no rights or respect as human beings.
On the latest episode of Bill Rhoden On Sports, we discuss the film and the man himself. And Bill interviews one of the film’s stars, the man who portrays Owens, Stephan James.
James was honored to have the opportunity to play the role of the track legend and learned a lot in the process.
“I learned that [Owens] was a humanitarian, a guy who was color-blind, he would give to anyone who he loved,” James explained. “He was a family-oriented individual, and his daughters were key in helping me shape the character.”
As part of the show, we are also joined by Jesse Owens expert Laurens Grant, a documentarian who recently directed a film aptly titled, Jesse Owens. We talked to Grant about her experiences researching Owens, the differences between feature films and documentaries, as well as other projects she has in the works, including a documentary on Black Lives Matter.
“How exciting that just a couple years after directing the documentary of Jesse Owens, there’s now a feature film coming out,” Grant said. “So, I’m really happy for his family.”
The movie Race is a very solid movie that cleanly documents Owens’s rise to prominence, from attending and running track at The Ohio State University to breaking numerous college and world records to his trials, tribulations and triumphs up until and including the 1936 Olympics in Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie occurs when Owens meets with NAACP leaders, who urge him to boycott the upcoming Olympic Games because they were being hosted by Hitler and Germany.
“One thing I didn’t know, was that there was even a boycott movement that could have derailed the Games or U.S. participation,” Grant said, referring to her research for the documentary. “Imagine if the U.S. team did not go, there may not have been a Jesse Owens, because the next Olympic Games was cancelled due to World War II.”
Finally, we get into deeper themes related to race and film-making in general, including the perceived need of major film production companies to cater even minority story lines to white audiences and the ever-present need for more minority directors and storytellers in the industry.
Listen to all of this and much more on the latest edition of Bill Rhoden On Sports.