'Big Shot,' Muhammad Ali and Katarina Witt Biopics Highlight Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival

John Clarke
The Wrap

The Tribeca Film Festival announced this year's Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival lineup of nine sports films, including world premieres of Kevin Connolly's "Big Shot"; biopics on boxing legend Muhammad Ali, extreme skier Shane McConkey and Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt, and a handful documentaries about women in sports directed by female filmmakers

The festival, founded in 2006, is Tribeca's premiere showcase for independent sports films. Now in its seventh year, it will screen nine world premieres  -- nearly twice as many as last year's sports slate.

Connolly returns to Tribeca after his 2007 directorial of the feature film "Gardener of Eden." In the documentary "Big Shot," which kicks off the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, Connolly chronicles John Spano's fraudulent 1996 purchase of the New York Islanders for a bank-busting $165 million. The film follows Spano's scheme and the biggest the biggest case of fraud in hockey history.

Directors by Benny Safdie and Joshua Safdie take a heartbreaking look at high-school basketball player Lenny Cooke, who in 2001 was ranked above future greats LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. A decade later, Cooke is found flamed out, never having made it to the NBA.

Senain Kheshgi and Jennifer Arnold's film on onetime Playboy cover girl and Olympic figure Witt, follows her rise to fame and her connections to the East German secret police.

The following films, which will screen throughout the festival, will be featured in the 2013 Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Big Shot: Directed by Kevin Connolly; U.S. Documentary. Connolly chronicles John Spano's fraudulent purchase of the New York Islanders for $165 million in 1996.

McConkey: Directed and written by Steve Winter, Murray Wais, Scott Gaffney, David Zieff, and Rob Bruce; U.S. Documentary. An all-star roster of sports movie-making talent directs this bio pic of extreme ski legend Shane McConkey, once described as "the most influential skier ever." 

Lenny Cooke: Directed by Benny Safdie and Joshua Safdie; U.S. Documentary. In 2001, Lenny Cooke was the most hyped high school basketball player in the country, ranked above future greats LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. A decade later, Lenny has never played a minute in the NBA. 

The Trials of Muhammad Ali: Directed by Bill Siegel; U.S. Documentary. This film reveals the perfect storm of race, religion and politics that shaped one of the most recognizable figures in sports history: Muhammad Ali.

The Motivation: Directed by Adam Bhala Lough; U.S. World Premiere, Documentary. Film follows the lives and training regimes of eight of the world's gutsiest professional skateboarders, as it searches for that elusive quality that separates winners from the pack.

Pat XO: Directed by Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters, produced by Robin Roberts; U.S. Documentary. Story follows Pat Summitt, college basketball's winningest coach, as she makes the stunning announcement she has Alzheimer's and resigns.

The Diplomat: Directed and written by Senain Kheshgi and Jennifer Arnold; U.S. Documentary. Follows the rise of gold medal Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt ("the most beautiful face of socialism") and her connections to the East German secret police.

No Limits: Directed and written by Alison Ellwood; U.S. Documentary. Follows free diver in his journey from ardent free diver to world-class competitor. 

Let Them Wear Towels: Directed and written by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg; U.S. World Premiere, Documentary. A look inside the gender politics of post-game locker room interviews during the 1977 World Series.

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