Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The First Saturday in May

Sunday night, Chrissy and I attended a screening at SilverDocs, a documentary film festival at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. The movie was The First Saturday in May, and it is about the Kentucky Derby (which, coincidentally, takes place the first Saturday of every May). We had seen the movie at the Barbaro gathering at Delaware Park [link] back in April, but much of it we saw on the Jumbotron out in the middle of the track and it wasn't too easy to see it or hear it from that far out. It is a much different experience seeing it in a theater. It is a wonderful movie, even if you're not an avid horse race fan.

The Hennigan Brothers (the filmmakers, whom we met both at DE Park and at AFI) stated that their ideal purpose in making this movie was to make horse racing cool again. Back in the day (sorry Roon), the track was the place to be. Thousands upon thousands of people came out to see Seabiscuit take on War Admiral. Unfortunately, through OTBs, internet gambling sites and Hollywood stereotypes, the track has lost some of its luster. Will you see some interesting and, yes, sad characters if you go to the race track? Naturally. Is it the kind of seedy dump that you see in some movies, like Let It Ride? Of course not. Don't get me wrong, I love that movie, and as they say, comedy isn't funny if there isn't a grain of truth in it. But I am able to distinguish the difference between a character in a movie and a real live person, an ability I'm sad to say many people don't possess.

But I digress. The movie follows six hopefuls on their road to the Kentucky Derby. Some of them made it, some of them didn't. What made it interesting was the personalities behind the effort, both the horses and the trainers. One of the horses they followed was the 2006 Derby winner Barbaro. Naturally, they couldn't just ignore what happened after the Derby, but I thought they handled it very well. They didn't show his actual breakdown at the Preakness. They didn't dwell on his death. They did mention his little brother Nicanor, who was born March 15, 2006.

In any case, keep an eye out for this film. It's definitely worth a look. I don't know if they're going to show it anywhere at any other festivals or if it will get picked up for wide release (I doubt it). They are planning on releasing it eventually on DVD. Wake the children, phone the neighbors, tell a friend.

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