This weekend I saw the Disney film, Secretariat. Now upon first glance, when it was in the theater I was uninterested – that is until I understood that the horses’s owner was a woman, Penny Chenery. I watched the movie with my teen-aged daughter (until she fell asleep, it was late) and aunt. I remarked to my aunt how I liked that Hollywood (at least in the last decade) was learning to appreciate real-life stories. For me, it can be a stronger story, one that touches people. And if (and only if) you believe that film should be art, isn’t that what it’s supposed to do?
Secretariat chronicles the struggle of a 70s housewife as she takes over her father’s farm and horse training business. A horse that she watched being born is groomed by a trainer she selected and guided by a jockey she selected to win the Triple Crown – for the first time in 25 years. It is important to note that Penny Chenery was taught about horses and training them at the knee of her father (and her brother was not). Although it is very Disney-esque with its warmth and uplifting tone (not a bad thing), it is an extrememly important story to tell. I would have liked to see more of the backlash that Chenery encountered as a race horse owner in the early seventies, but the focus is on the horse and views her character from a distance. However, there is a scene when she nonchalantly walks into a gentleman-only club to speak to an old friend of her father’s and you know what a spitfire she was and had to be.
This movie is one of the many that are beginning to appear and I am hopeful there will be more to come. Aside from bio-pics, the film industry seems to move slowly in this direction. I would argue that it is because we the audience are slow to embrace such movies, which is a shame because they can be a source of inspiration especially for youth. We must remember that people need to be inspired. Because our children view movies as entertainment, we should take them to see such movies so that they can witness how ordinary people can be extraordinary.
Other movies that I loved have put real stories on the screen but have not received much acclaim from the industry or audience (with the exception of The Great Debaters). However this country loves sports so those have faired better, many even receiving the ESPY award.
- The Great Debaters
- Remember the Titans
- Men of Honor
- Coach Carter
- We are Marshall
Perhaps we are seeing a slight shift of attitude with The Blind Side and The Fighter, but again, those are sports pics.