Calling All Sports Lovers: The Spa City Sports Series #HSDFF

If you love sports, then you will love Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival!  The 2015 Spa City Sports Series covers the best of the year in sports documentary. Powerful human stories played out against the world’s fields, pitches, rings, courts and courses.

Sponsored by 103.7 The Buzz

Don’t miss Justin Acri and Pat Bradley of  103.7 The Buzz / The Zone broadcasting live from HSDFF and the Arlington Hotel on Wednesday, October 14. 

Here are the 8 sports documentaries screening at this year's festival.

TIP: Click on the film title to add to your personalized HSDFF schedule!


The First Boys of Spring

D: Larry Foley | USA | 60 min | World Premiere

Beginning in 1886, baseball spring training was held for the first time, not in Florida or Arizona, but in the Arkansas resort town of Hot Springs, and that’s where the annual rite caught on. For parts of eight decades, many of the best who ever played the game, came to Hot Springs to shake off the rust from winters of sedentary indulgence to prepare for long seasons ahead, with such teams as the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Pirates—and the Negro League’s Monarchs, Crawfords and Grays. Narrated by Academy Award winning actor Billy Bob Thornton, the film regales stories of baseball Hall of Famers who worked out, gambled and partied in Hot Springs, including a young Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Satchel Paige, Honus Wagner and baseball’s first superstar, Mike “King” Kelly.

Screening is presented by Visit Hot Springs and held at Horner Hall, Hot Springs Convention Center

Attending: director Larry Foley, special guest Bob Gibson, multiple cast members

Click here to read Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article "On Film: Making the Pitch," by Philip Martin
Click here to read Arkansas Life article "Boys of Spring," by Bonnie Bauman

Ghost Town to Havana

D: Eugene Corr | USA | 86 min | Regional Premiere

A life rampant, street level story of mentorship and everyday heroism in tough circumstances. An inner city coach's son, estranged in his youth from his father, spends five years on ball fields in inner city Oakland and Havana, following the lives of two extraordinary youth baseball coaches, Roscoe in Oakland and Nicolas in Havana. The coaches meet on videotape and two years of red tape later, Coach Roscoe and nine Oakland players travel to Havana to play Coach Nicolas' team. For one week, the players and coaches eat, dance, swim, argue and play baseball. Real friendships form. But when the parent of an Oakland player is murdered back home, it brings back the inescapable reality of life in an American inner city.

Official Selection Hollywood Film Festival

Production manager/ production coordinator Olga de Los Angeles Lopez Rodriguez was on the project from the beginning, and also conducted and coordinated Spanish language interviews in Havana.

Attending:  associate producer Liza Corr, subject Coach Roscoe Bryant


D: Ido Mizrahy | USA/Mexico/Spain | 74 min | Regional Premiere

Antonio Barrera is the most gored bullfighter in modern history, and known to perform with total abandonment. He’s been gored twenty three times, an unusually high number that includes seventeen surgeries, countless broken bones and many scars. Now with a family to consider, a body that won’t hold up and a lack of interest from promoters, Barrera has decided to retire. Before his last bullfight, he is conflicted. After taking such a beating all his life, he dreams of staying alive for his family. Yet he still fantasizes of becoming a well known bullfighter, a dream that he and his father shared, and to do that he feels he must sacrifice himself to the bulls. Will he survive his final performance?

Official Selection Tribeca

Attending: director Ido Mizrahy

The Great Alone

D: Greg Kohs | USA | 80 min | Regional Premiere

The striking comeback story of Iditarod racer, Lance Mackey, against the backdrop of the great Alaskan wilderness.  From his childhood with his famous father  to cancer’s attempt to take him, The Great Alone pulls viewers along every mile of Lance’s emotional journey to become one of the greatest sled dog racers of all time.

Winner Grand Jury Award Seattle International FF, Official Selection Hamptons International FF

Attending: 4-Time Iditarod Champion Lance Mackey, subjects Kathie Smith and lead dog Amp

Harry & Snowman

Harry & Snowman

D: Ron Davis | USA | 84 min | Arkansas Premiere

The remarkable life story of international show jumping legend Harry deLeyer, a Dutch immigrant whose career was launched by his famous show jumping horse Snowman. Snowman was an old Amish plow horse that Harry rescued off a truck that was bound for the meat and glue factory for only $80. Less than two years after he rescued Snowman, they rose to become the national show jumping champions and were the Cinderella story and media darlings of late 1950's and 1960's. The true heart of the film is not the remarkable rags-to-riches story of both Harry & Snowman, but the lasting and impactful relationship that is built between Harry, Snowman and the entire deLeyer family. Very few horse stories have been able to truly touch the hearts of a nation. Red Pollard & Seabiscuit did in the 1930's, Harry DeLeyer & Snowman did it in the 1950's and then Ron Turcotte & Secretariat were the last to do it in the 1970's. Harry and Snowman allows 85 year old Harry to to tell his remarkable story in his own words.

World Premiere Full Frame, Official Selection Napa Valley FF, Winner Best Documentary Nantucket FF, Winner Best of the Fest Woods Hole FF

Attending: Director Ron Davis, subjects Harry DeLeyer, Harriet DeLeyer

Outlaw: Life, Death and Texas Football

D: Matt Skinner | USA | 76 min |  World Premiere

The story of Arkansas native and high school football coaching legend John Outlaw. From humble beginnings, Outlaw rose to become synonymous with high school football in America. But John Outlaw was much more than a coach; his passion for football was matched only by the consideration he showed his players, his support for his coaches, and by his message about the game of football: that the game is about far more than winning. Follow this compelling journey as filmmaker Matt Skinner explores the life and influence of Coach John Outlaw. 

The Prince of Pennsylvania

D: Jesse Vile | USA | 50 min | World Premiere

Back in the 1980s, the road to the Olympics was long and hard for an amateur wrestler. But then along came John du Pont, an eccentric heir to the family fortune with a passion for wrestling. His 800-acre Foxcatcher Farm became the hub of the sport, with state-of-the-art training facilities, free accommodations, generous stipends and the support of America's best freestyle wrestlers, brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. It all seemed too good to be true—and it was. With exclusive access to new witnesses and never-before-seen footage, The Prince of Pennsylvania is the story of a paradise lost to the madness of its creator, a man who had the means to buy anything except for the one thing he truly wanted.

 Claressa "T-Rex" Shields.  Flint, Michigan. October 2014


D: Drea Cooper, Zach Canepari | USA | 91 min | Regional Premiere

"T­Rex" is an intimate coming ­of­ age story about a new kind of American heroine. For the first time ever, women’s boxing is included in the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold from the U.S. is Claressa “T­Rex” Shields, just 17 years old, and by far the youngest competitor. From the hard knock streets of Flint, Michigan, Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring. She protects her family at any cost, even when their instability and addictions threaten to derail her dream. Claressa does have one stable force in her life. Coach Jason Crutchfield has trained her since she was a scrawny 11­year­old hanging out at his gym. Jason always wanted a champion,he just never thought it’d be a girl. Her relationships with her coach and her family grow tense as she gets closer to her dream. But Claressa is fierce and determined. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning a gold medal could be her only chance.World Premiere SXSW, Winner Audience Award and Special Jury Award San Francisco International FF,  Won Roger Ebert Prize Traverse City FF, Official Selection Hot Docs


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HSDFF runs October 9-18, 2015 at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. For more information on the festival visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest news and information.