Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2011. ESPN Films, Live Star Entertainment. Screenplay by Aaron Cohen, Eric Drath. Cinematography by James Fideler. Produced by Eric Drath, Libby Geist, Daniel Silver. Music by Nathan Halpern. Production Design by Paul Docherty, Ralph Medica. Film Editing by Brian Hartough, Kate Hirson.
Tennis player Renée Richards made history when she appeared on the courts of the 1976 U.S. Open and insisted she be allowed to play along with other female competitors. The controversy was over the fact that Richards was actually born Richard Raskind and, during a successful career as an opthalmologist, had undergone gender reassignment surgery. Her appearance on the tennis court, over six feet tall and with quite a mighty swing, inspired a myriad of reactions from competitors, commentators and audiences; this got no quieter when Richards made history by denying the USTA the right to put her through chromosome testing before being allowed to play as a woman. This charged but humorous documentary takes us through Richards’ entire life and includes not only her triumphs on the tennis court but her personal tragedies at home, where a relationship with her son has turned sour due to years of resentment and missed communication between them that have manifested themselves as the young man’s battles with addiction. Interview subjects include Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade, and the film features a terrific look into the world of tennis as it existed in the seventies.