Documentarians are always in search of unusual stories, and producer-director Amber Fares has found a real winner in Speed Sisters. The Lebanese Canadian cofounder of SocDoc Studios heads to the Middle East to share the tale of five brave and ambitious Palestinians who have formed the region’s first all-women racecar driving team. Noor Dauod, Marah Zahalka, Betty Saadeh, Mona Ali, and captain Maysoon Jayyusi defy gender stereotypes by participating in professional races driving heavily modified regular cars. Competing against men, they roar around makeshift tracks in Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, and other locations, racing against the clock to put up the fastest time as they follow complicated courses with very specific rules. The film is photographed by Fares and Lucy Martens (Out of the Ashes, Voices from Inside: Israelis Speak) and edited by Rabab Haj Yahya (Bed and Breakfast, Beyond Blue and Gray) for maximum impact, putting viewers right in the middle of the exciting action. Rather than being shunned by their patriarchal society, the women are cheered on by fans and their male colleagues, led by Palestinian Motor Sport and Motorcycle Federation founder Khaled Qaddoura, as well as most, though not all, of their family members. Each of the women feels the need for speed, but they also have different motivations. “I don’t race for the trophies; I do it for the release,” Mona explains, while Noor says, “In the car, everything I need to feel is there. The car completes me.”
The five women discuss their hopes and dreams in addition to their fears, often concerned for their safety as they go through Israeli checkpoints monitored by armed military guards; at one point, Betty gets hit in the lower back by a tear-gas canister, leaving a scary bruise, a sharp contrast to scenes in which she carefully applies nail polish and puts on lipstick right before a race. Fares doesn’t delve too deeply into Mideast politics, but she doesn’t let it take a backseat either; the powderkeg that is the never-ending battle over settlements in the West Bank and the ongoing troubled relationship between Israel and Palestine is ever present, always bubbling under the surface, as the women burn rubber and the soundtrack pulsates with songs by Palestinian indie bands. “How much will we let the occupation affect our lives?” Marah says. “What are we supposed to do, stop living?” Speed Sisters opens February 10 at Cinema Village, with Fares and producer Jessica Devaney (My Neighbourhood, Home Front) participating in Q&As following the 7:15 screenings February 10, 11, and 12.
One of the best sports films ever made, Slap Shot is a riotously bloody look at minor-league hockey. Paul Newman — who declared this one of his favorite pictures — stars as Reggie Dunlop, an aging loser serving as player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs and trying to keep his marriage going with Francine (Jennifer Warren). When the general manager (Strother Martin) tells him that the team is being shut down at the end of the season, Dunlop decides to send it off with a bang. Lying to his team that if the Chiefs fill the seats and start winning they will move to Florida, he incorporates a different style of play into their game, led by the brutal, vicious, and utterly hilarious Hanson brothers (real-life brothers Jeff and Steve Carlson and their Johnstown Jets teammate Dave Hanson), who never met an opponent they wouldn’t punch, trip, slash, spear, or slam face-first into the boards well after the whistle. Even Dunlop gets in on the fun, throwing his share of right hands. The only player not participating in the hijinks is Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean), who believes in sportsmanship and a more gentlemanly game of skill and beauty, not exactly what men like Ogie Oglethorpe (minor-league player Ned Dowd, whose sister, Nancy, wrote the book that the movie is based on, inspired by the real-life antics of the Johnstown Jets) and Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken (Paul D’Amato) have in mind. You don’t have to be a hockey fan to love Slap Shot, which is really, when it comes right down to it, just a little film about the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Look for cameos by Paul Dooley, M. Emmett Walsh, Melinda Dillon, Nancy Dowd as Andrea, and actual hockey players Bruce Boudreau, Jean Tétreault, Connie Madigan, Cliff Thompson, and Joe Nolan, among others. Slap Shot is screening February 3 in the Metrograph series “Universal in the 70’s: Part One,” a tribute to the decade when the studio took advantage of the growing independent-cinema movement; the two-week, eighteen-film festival continues through February 7 with such other gems as Clint Eastwood’s awesome High Plains Drifter, Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, Jeremy Kagan’s The Big Fix, and Don Siegel’s underseen Charley Varrick.
PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDERS MONSTER ENERGY BUCK OFF AT THE GARDEN
Madison Square Garden
31st - 33rd Sts. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
January 6-8, $26-$208 ($506 for PBR Elite Seats)
In her introduction to the 1931 book Family Fun: Games and Good Times for Children and Parents, Mabel Travis Wood wrote, “The family that plays together stays together.” The Byrnes have taken that to a whole new level, a kind of Flying Wallendas except trying to maintain their balance on bulls instead of the high wire (although, as the above photo shows, they do occasionally soar through the air). In 2004, bullfighting champion Ryan Byrne was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame after a long and distinguished career. His wife, Kelley, is a barrel racer who has written a children’s book about bullfighting. They have raised three athletic sons, Bo, Tanner, and Jesse, who have been involved in rodeo since they were kids; together they run the annual Byrne Brothers Bull Riding and Bull Fighting School in their hometown of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Tanner, a bull rider who has to endure eight seconds atop two-ton bucking bulls, and Jesse, a bullfighter who protects riders from danger when they fall off the bull or dismount after a successful ride, will be in New York City January 6-8 for the PBR Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, as professional bull riding — “the toughest eight seconds in sports” — takes over the World’s Most Famous Arena for the eleventh consecutive year. As they prepared for this major event that kicks off the 2017 season, Tanner, twenty-four and married to Meghan, and Jesse, thirty and married to Canadian barrel racer Lauren, reflected on their family, their sport, New York City, and their harrowing run-in with Chocolate Thunder in April 2014.
twi-ny: You both grew up with a father who was a champion bullfighter and a mother who was a barrel racer, and you would all regularly go to the Calgary Stampede. Did you always want to get involved in bull riding?
Tanner Byrne: Yes, I was born into the rodeo and bull riding lifestyle. Tried all sorts of sports and was good at most everything I did, including lacrosse, baseball, basketball. I also played hockey until I was fifteen years old but decided to stick with bull riding. I knew from day one I wanted to be a world champion and follow my one true passion.
Jesse Byrne: Rodeo and bull riding have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I had always wanted to be a cowboy growing up; I loved riding horses, roping, and ranching. As I got older, I tried riding bulls, which didn’t seem to go well with my personality, which is code for, “It scared me!” Once I tried bullfighting, I knew right away what I wanted to make a career of.
twi-ny: As children, which one of your was more protective of the other, whether playing sports or tussling with other kids? Did you fight with each other a lot, and if so, who would usually win?
TB: I’d say as the older one Jesse was more protective of me and always has had my back, looking out for me whenever I was in trouble. If he thought I was doing something too young to do, he always let me know. As for fighting, I have a much bigger reach and height advantage on him now. I think I’d fare OK. But I’ve seen him take some solid hits in the arena and wouldn’t want to fight him, that’s for sure. We are lucky enough to be three brothers who are all best friends. As we got older, we grew closer together as buddies and brothers. We all have a really good relationship, unlike lots of brother combos I know.
JB: Growing up, I was always pretty protective of others, I guess. I’ve never been the biggest person. But what I lacked in size I made up for with heart. If someone was trying to attack, it wasn’t going to go unchallenged as far as I was concerned. Being a far bit older than Tanner, we never really fought amongst each other as typical brothers would, which I’m thankful for, as it didn’t take him long to have the reach advantage over me. One thing I know for sure, if you mess with one of us, you are going to have to deal with us both.
twi-ny: In April 2014, you were both involved in a dangerous encounter with Chocolate Thunder, with Jesse ultimately jumping on Tanner to shield him from the rampaging bull. At the time, are you both just operating on pure adrenaline, or were you well aware of each other, knowing it was brother and brother fighting off the bull together?
TB: At the time of that incident I was unconscious. I didn’t know what was going down, to tell you the truth. After a couple days and seeing the video replay, I was very appreciative of those guys and knew my brother, Shorty [Gorham], and Frank [Newsom] did everything in their power to get that bull off me like they do for all the riders, day in and day out. I know Jesse treats all of us riders like his brothers, and when any of us goes down he really takes it personally. So I’m sure it was more traumatizing for him to see me down. I was out of it so don’t have much recollection.
JB: Being out there to protect the best bull riders in the world comes with a huge responsibility and a lot of pressure. When you then add family to the mix, it definitely creates a unique situation. However, the difference in my mind when it comes to Tanner lies more in his success than safety. I get nervous and excited about the outcome, just being closer to him than any of the other riders and seeing firsthand what he puts into the sport. No matter who comes out of the chute, it’s my job to do absolutely whatever I can to get them out of there as safe as possible. It all comes down to reaction; there’s really no time to think in those moments.
twi-ny: Do you have favorite bulls?
TB: Yes, I do. I like the bulls that I can get the best scores on and the bulls I’ve won the most money on! Some stand out due to riding them at special events. There’s a bull called Compact who I rode at my first event in the championship round that ultimately got me on the PBR Built Ford Tough Series tour, and the rest is history. I also rode that bull again at the World Finals in Las Vegas that led to a top-three finish and lots of money. So my favorites are ones I have a personal history with.
I was recently in contact with Compact’s owner, trying to buy him once his bucking career is over to retire him on my ranch. He’ll live out his days in luxury. He was good to me; I want to be good to him. As a bull owner myself, I’m part of a group, Flying Four Bucking Bulls, raising our own bucking bulls. I’m really fond of growing our young bulls from calves, seeing them grow up and develop as buckers, and go on in their bucking careers.
JB: I’m a huge bull riding fan, and getting to see it up close week in and week out I have the utmost respect for the bulls. They are amazing athletes with a crazy amount of power and agility. It’s always exciting to watch the elite, and when you see the likes of bulls such as Air Time, Long John, and Bruiser, to name a few, you just never know what to expect. But it will definitely be something you remember.
twi-ny: What is the worst injury you’ve suffered from a bull?
TB: Lots of bumps and bruises and broken bones but, “knock on wood,” I’ve been fairly lucky compared to others injury-wise. My knees and wrist give me lots of trouble with torn ligaments that are common with bull riding. It’s nerve-wracking coming back after an injury, but I let my training and my work ethic give me the confidence to know I’ve got what it takes to ride at this level.
JB: Obviously the danger factor is quite high with bullfighting. Like everyone else in the sport, I’ve had injuries to deal with. A few minor surgeries and definitely some broken bones but nothing major in comparison to others. I think the hardest part about injury is not knowing how much your body can take and having to wait to come back to get your answer. It’s not something you can simulate before stepping off into live action.
twi-ny: Tanner, you previously mentioned also playing lacrosse, baseball, and basketball. What other sports did you play as children, along with Bo?
TB: Any sport or athletic event we could do we did. Our parents helped us in all sports and aspects of life. We never were forced into bull riding, probably more pushed to other things like hockey. But we all loved bull riding and rodeo, and with a dad who is a superstar, you grow up wanting to do what your hero did. Like having a dad who played in the NHL or NFL, you’re never forced to do the same, but it’s what you know from day one and all we ever wanted to be. I played a lot of hockey and was a good prospect. Played until I was fifteen and quit when my bull riding and hockey collided. I ultimately had to choose between the two. Josh Manson, one of my best friends and teammates since we were little kids, went on and is now playing in the NHL for the Anaheim Ducks.
JB: Since I grew up in Canada, hockey was a big part of my childhood as well. Rodeo in the summer, hockey in the winter. I also enjoyed playing baseball. However, its season overlapped with rodeo, so it was one or the other, and, well, I’m sure you can guess which one I chose. These days I’m still a fan of both hockey and baseball, and I enjoy getting out for the odd round of golf.
twi-ny: During your off-week from the Built Ford Tough Series each May, you both take part in the Byrne Brothers Bull Riding and Bull Fighting School. What kind of programs are at the school? Is it open to everyone, or do you need some experience?
TB: Yes, we are proud to give back and help everyone we can with the knowledge and work ethic it took for us to get to this top level coming out of Canada and doing well in our fields of riding and fighting. We teach the basics and mindset and try to share everything we know and have in our power to help everyone from advanced riders to rookies to first-timers thinking it would be fun to get on a bull. It’s a fun-filled weekend, and we’re proud to see our students pursuing their careers and succeeding in this sport.
JB: We accept students of all experience levels. If it’s your first time, we provide an introduction to the sport in the safest way possible, teaching the proper basics from day one. If you are experienced and trying to take your skills to the next level, we will work on fine-tuning your approach and eliminating bad habits. Not to forget the mental aspect, which everyone of all skill levels must continuously work on. It’s fun to be able to contribute to the future of our sport and share the passion.
twi-ny: When you’re not involved with bull riding and bullfighting, which seems to be almost constantly, what other things do you like to do?
TB: I love to be home in Canada with my family. We have cattle and bucking bulls, so that always keeps us busy. We love horseback riding and roping. Between events, when my wife and baby daughter, Layla, are able to come with me, we tour around and are tourists everywhere we go. They’re my biggest support, and I owe the world to them. I’m involved in some real estate ventures and different businesses, setting up for life after bull riding, so when I’m not riding I’m always staying busy with one thing or another.
JB: For the last twelve years, bull riding has consumed the majority of my time, if not at an event, traveling to get to the next one. The weeks get pretty short, but I’m thankful to be able to go home for even just a day or two and reconnect with family. Give the senses a break from all the action, let the body recover, and enjoy the calm before it’s back to action.
twi-ny: You’ll be in New York City January 6-8 for the Monster Energy Buck Off. Are the crowds at the Garden different from those at other venues?
TB: I can’t wait! There’s nothing bigger than Madison Square Garden. The crowds are great; they don’t see it often, so they usually get loud and wild. There’s always people we don’t see at other events in New York.
JB: New York is without a doubt one of my favorite events of the year. I get excited just thinking about being able to start our season in one of the most legendary buildings in the world. The passion and energy the fans of NYC bring is contagious.
twi-ny: Do you have time to take in any of the city, and if so, what are some of your favorite things to do here?
TB: I’ve seen lots of popular tourist spots, but the ones that stand out would be the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Wall Street. And obviously there’s a lot of shopping when my wife comes with me. I love New York; the atmosphere of it is like nothing else I’ve seen.
JB: I typically find myself arriving a day earlier than a usual event or even departing a day later after it’s over just to take in all the city has to offer. Whether it be Broadway for a musical, touring the shopping districts, or spoiling myself at one of my favorite steakhouses, you can bet you won’t catch me spending much time in my hotel room.
twi-ny: Finally, Tanner, last year I interviewed Cooper Davis, and he went on to win the PBR championship. How do you like your chances for MSG and the season?
TB: I’m planning on the same fate as Cooper! I’ve stepped up my training regimen with my team, Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team, which is owned by NFL superstar Jared Allen. And I’ve dedicated myself to winning a world championship this year. I believe I have a really good shot in MSG this year and as the winner this year in the PBR as a whole. I’m looking forward to the 2017 season.
In the 1970s and 1980s, sports and politics began to mix in unsavory ways, from the horrific massacre of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972 to boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Summer Games. But sports can also lift nations and their place in the world in remarkable ways. Three years before the “Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. Olympic hockey team won the Gold Medal in Lake Placid, a previously unsuccessful Israeli basketball team was attempting to pull off a miracle of its own at the 1976-77 European Cup Championship. Writer-director Dani Menkin tells the improbable story of Maccabi Tel-Aviv in On the Map, an exciting, superbly made documentary about a group of dedicated men whose on-court efforts were about more than going after the cup. “It’s not just basketball,” point guard Bob Griffin explains. Menkin mixes contemporary and archival footage for maximum impact; seeing the surviving members of the team donning their jerseys again and watching themselves in the biggest international game an Israeli team has ever participated in is tremendously moving. “It was something so unbelievable, so wishful, a great, golden place in sports history,” says sportscaster Alex Giladi, who took much of the amazing footage shown in the film. Fascinating insights emerge as Menkin speaks with Griffin, power forward Eric Minkin, forward Lou Silver, guard Miki Berkovich, center Aulcie Perry, superstar point guard and captain Tal Brody, and Jennifer Boatwright, the widow of small forward Jim Boatwright, in addition to former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps, Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who played with Brody on the U.S. National Team, former NBA commissioner David Stern, NBA commentator Simmy Reguer, and broadcaster Gideon Hod. Among those putting Maccabi’s battles against Italy’s Mobilgirgi Varèse, Spain’s Real Madrid, and Russia’s CSKA Moscow Red Army into political perspective are former finance minister Yair Lapid, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, Maccabi president Shimon Mizrahi, and longtime Soviet prisoner and activist Natan Sharansky.
On the Map is a terrific documentary, particularly because Menkin (39 Pounds of Love, Dolphin Boy) was able to acquire so much outstanding black-and-white and color footage of the events discussed in the film, from Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan greeting the team on court before games to Brody practicing by himself, from players sharing a prophetic cake to head coach Ralph Klein giving inspirational locker-room speeches. There is also archival footage of the 1972 Olympic massacre, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin preparing to resign, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat meeting with U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and the 1976 Air France hijacking that led to Operation Entebbe. In the middle of it all is Brody, a kid from Jersey who helped change Israel and its position on the world stage. “There are some things that are more important than sport,” Stern says. “The excitement was just too much. I wanted more,” Perry asserts with a big smile. On the Map expertly delivers big-time on both accounts. The film opens December 9 at Cinema Village, with Menkin participating in Q&As following the 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 screenings December 9-11.
West 135th St. between Malcolm X Blvd. & Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Saturday, August 20, and Sunday, August 21, free, 12 noon – 10:00 pm
Festival continues through August 27
The annual Harlem Week festival continues August 20 with “Summer in the City” and August 21 with “Harlem Day,” two afternoons of a wide range of free special events along West 135th St. Saturday’s festivities include the Higher Education Fair & Expo, New Yorkers Are “Dancing in the Street” (with Alvin Ailey instructor Robin Dunn teaching a hip-hop ballet and African dance class, with WBLS DJs), the Fabulous Fashion Flava Show, the first day of the NYC Children’s Festival (with a parade, sports clinics, health testing, arts & crafts, and more), Harlem Honeys & Bears swimming activities for seniors in the Hansborough Recreation Center, an International Vendors Village, the Uptown Saturday Concert paying tribute to Nina Simone, and the Imagenation Outdoor Film Festival screening in St. Nicholas Park of Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, about Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s Rumble in the Jungle. Sunday’s Harlem Day celebration features the “Harlem and Havana Classics” Upper Manhattan Auto Show, tennis clinics, the “Village within Our Village” health village, the second day of the NYC Children’s Festival (with a Back to School theme), an “International Roots of Jazz” program, the Upper Manhattan Small Business Expo & Fair, live music, dance, and spoken-word performances, a kids fashion show, and musical tributes to Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire leader Maurice White.
In a twi-ny talk last summer, Dexter Gardiner, who founded the Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic shortly after a series of terrible losses — his twin brother, brother-in-law, niece, and two nephews were killed in a traffic accident on their way to a charity tournament honoring Dexter’s sister and mother, who had passed away earlier that year — told us, “We just started it out of tragedy, and we wanted to help other families that were suffering loss. We never dreamed that it would get this far, but here we are . . . and we’re excited about it. Each year it continues to grow.” The eleventh annual Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic is bigger than ever, set for August 20 & 21 in St. James Park in the Bronx, featuring such match-ups as Philly vs. Lawyertime, Mississippi vs. Tha Transitions, Wrecking Crew vs. Team Flirt, and Gunhill vs. Body Snatchers. (And don’t miss Sunday’s girls game between the Nassau County All-Stars and a city team of teens.) There will also be live entertainment, special speakers, and scholarship presentations. Lawyertime is one of the event sponsors; the firm also joined up with Councilman Fernando Cabrera for a free Gardiner Foundation basketball clinic in the Bronx park on June 25. The two-day tournament is really all about the kids, who can pick up such free items as shirts, sneakers, school supplies, and even a laptop in addition to food and drink.
1904 Surf Ave.
August 9-14, $10-$17
The Brooklyn Cyclones are having a tough season, hovering around the .500 mark, but they’re still only four and a half games out of first place, even in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The team returns to Coney Island on August 9 to kick off a six-game homestand, with three matches against the lowly Vermont Lake Monsters, followed by three versus the West Virginia Black Bears. To help lure in fans, all six games will feature special giveaways and appearances. August 9 is Joe Torre Safe at Home Night, with the first 2,000 fans receiving a Joe Torre Brooklyn Cadets Bobblehead, a live appearance by the former Mets and Yankees manager, pregame celebrity softball (with John Starks, John Wallace, Nelson Figueroa, Rosanna Scotto, Greg Kelly, and members of the DSNY, NYPD, and FDNY) and postgame fireworks. August 10 is 90s Night, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Ren & Stimpy Show, with a Jersey off the Back Raffle, and, after the game, everyone gets to run around the bases. On August 11, Jesse Orosco will be part of a tribute to the 1986 World Champion Mets, with the first 2,500 ticket holders receiving a 1986 Mets jersey. On August 12, the Black Bears come in for Military Appreciation Night and the thirtieth anniversary of Top Gun, with postgame fireworks and an aviator sunglasses giveaway. August 13 is Augtoberfest, featuring fireworks and a stein mug giveaway. Finally, there’s a lot going on for Sunday’s match-up (all tickets are only ten bucks), including a Cyclones T-shirt giveaway (to the first 1,500 fans), Bark in the Park (yes, you can bring your dog and join a pregame parade or adopt a pet there), a pregame catch on the field, and a postgame run around the bases for kids.