Tuesday, March 8th, 2016


This new crowd-pleaser biopic of African/American athleticRace_2016_film_poster hero Jesse Owens sees his troubled world through rose colored glasses (even the Nazis running the 1936 Olympics are not THAT bad ) as it fore-mostly focuses on his remarkable achievements of winning 4 Gold Medals, with the political ramifications taking second place. 

The movie starts with the teenage Owens leaving Alabama and his poverty-stricken family plus the mother of his daughter to go far away to Ohio University simply because of the Athletes Coach was once a great runner too. Larry Sydner is struggling to find any star athletes on his team and is in real danger of losing his job so he instead he seeks solace in a whisky bottle. He immediately sees the potential in Owens as he can outrace everybody else and as  he knows that Owen could be his path to redemption,  he quickly takes sides with the athlete and supports him through all the incessant racist bigotry that he has to face on  a daily basis. 

When Owens starts winning races and fame …. and the overtures of a wealthy black socialite who wants to bag him as a husband …. it is obvious that as he broke three World records in a single afternoon, that his selection for the Berlin Olympics is a forgone conclusion.  The trouble is the American Olympic Committee have serious misgivings about participating as they feel it will be seen as endorsing the Nazi regime which was already known for their extreme right-wing political views that were having grave consequences on the Jewish population already.

The Committee was however persuaded by  wealthy buisnessman Avery Brundage who, after a fact finding mission to Germany, said that everything in Germany was totally fine and that they should send an American Team. The movie in fact implies that Brundage had actually been bribed by the Nazis in return for his approval. The pressure on Owens to participate because of the German Reich’s sheer hatred of people of color was much more pronounced than that of his white team mates. We see part of it in the movie, but apart from that occasional moment of doubt, Owens didn’t really seem to struggle a great deal with his decision. In fact when he and his African/American teammate arrive at the Olympic Village they are shocked to discover they are to be billeted and fed with everyone else and not segregated like back in the US.

raceAs the Games start and Hitler studiously avoids any possible contact  with Owens even though he greets all the other winners, we are also witness to another power struggle between Goering the Minister if Propaganda who is running these Olympics and the young filmmaker Lief Riefenstahl who’s been commissioned to make a very glowing record of the Event. For some, slightly unknown reason, she is made to look a tad heroic.

Much is made of Owen’s close friendship with the aryan German champion Carl ‘Luz’ Long which seems to be included to show that not all the citizens where supportive of their country;s government. It does however just remind one that such a relationship between a white and black man back in the US then would have been completely impossible.

Jesse Owens is admirably played by Stephan James (John Lewis in Selma)  Coach Snyder by SNL’s Jason Sudekis, and Jeremy Irons put in a perfectly pitched turn as the slippery Avery Bundrage.  

Race is released at the perfect time given the present paranoia of the lack of diversity in Hollywood and should benefit from the current attention to African/American themed movies. Even though this one will not still be in anybody’s minds when they think about the next round of Oscars in 2017 , it should still make its own impact with its audience.



Posted by queerguru  at  16:09


Genres:  biopic

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