Major New Study Identifies Crucial Role for Sports Films in Times of Crisis

Apr 17 2013 Posted: 10:01 IST

A major new study of the sports film has been published by NUI Galway academic Seán Crosson. The sports film has become one of commercial cinema’s most recognizable genres, particularly over the past ten years, a period in which American society and culture has faced unprecedented crises. These include the controversy over the 2000 presidential election; the scandal surrounding the collapse of energy giant Enron; the bursting of the dotcom bubble and subsequent financial crisis of late 2000s, and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.

In response to these challenges, the book’s author, Seán Crosson of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway, contends that the sports film genre has played a critical role in affirming American society and culture: “The mainstream sports film has been centrally concerned with affirming the meritocracy myth of the American Dream particularly at points where it would appear to be most under threat. Indeed, some of the most commercially successful depictions of a range of sports have been released over the past ten years and these films represent (at least partly) a response to contemporaneous political and economic challenges to the American Dream ideology itself.”

Sport and Film traces the history of the sports film genre from the beginnings of cinema in the 1890s, to its consolidation as a distinct fiction genre in the mid-1920s in Hollywood films such as Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman (1925), and up to more recent Oscar-winning movies. Drawing on an extensive range of films as source material, Sport and Film explores key issues in the study of sport, film and wider society, including race, social class, gender and the legacy of 9/11.

As Crosson remarks “Sport has featured in film from the very beginnings of moving images and the popularity of film in its earliest incarnations depended considerably on the appeal of sport. From classic boxing films such as Raging Bull (1980) to soccer-themed box-office successes like Bend it Like Beckham (2002), the sports film stands at the interface of two of the most important cultural forms. This relationship has continued right up to today where popular and critically acclaimed films continue to feature sport centrally, including recent Oscar-winning productions such as Million Dollar Baby (2004), The Blind Side (2009) and The Fighter (2010).”

Seán Crosson is Programme Director of the MA in Film Studies: Theory and Practice in the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway. He has published widely on film, focusing in particular in recent years on the representation of sport in film. His previous publications include (as co-editor) the collection Sport, Representation and Evolving Identities in Europe (Peter Lang, 2010) and a special issue of Media History journal on ‘Sport and the Media in Ireland’ (2011).

Sport and Film will be launched by Philip Dine at 5.30pm on Monday, 29 April in the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway and all are welcome to attend.


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