UPDATED: This post has been updated to both accurately reflect the film’s Kickstarter contributions and the nature of this first clip.
My lack of coordination borders on legend. I once bruised my tailbone during a casual game of shuffleboard; as a child, I fell out of my low-to-the-floor bed directly onto the spindle of a rocking chair; as a teenager, I sprained my ankle by tripping down two stairs at the United States Capitol. Subsequently, I am fascinated by people who are able to walk down the street without ending up in the ER; there aren’t even words for the total awe and paralyzing jealousy I experience when watching a talented, young female athlete do sporty things. (Sorry I stalked you in the airport that one time, Shawn Johnson.)
Enter T-Rex, yet another documentary about a badass woman set to premiere at SXSW next month. The film follows 19-year-old Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, who overcame considerable odds—including growing up in the economically disintegrating Flint, Michigan with an incarcerated father who, when released from prison, discouraged her from pursuing the sport because of her gender—to become the youngest woman (and one of the first women) to box in the Olympics. With help from a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, in addition to grants and private funding, directors Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari started filming the doc at 2012’s Summer Olympics, when Shields was just 17, when women’s boxing was making its debut as a sport, and when I was probably struggling to get dressed without accidentally lighting myself on fire. Spoiler alert: Shields eventually became the first and youngest female boxer to win a gold medal in her weight class.
Here’s rather lengthy (but still truncated) description of the film, straight from the filmmakers and courtesy of IndieWire:
“She carries her money around in a plastic bottle. She wears her hair in braids (sometimes). She takes the bus to school. She likes Twitter. She likes boys. She writes in her journal. Pretty everyday for a teenager. But this is hardly an everyday story. Six years ago her dad took her to a local boxing gym. She said she wanted to box. He said, ‘Hell no. Boxing is a man’s sport.’ She ignored him. She dreams of being the first woman in history to win the gold medal in Olympic boxing. But in order for her to succeed, she’ll need to stand her ground both inside and outside the ring.”
Sounds important, inspirational, and sob-inducing as hell—the ideal trifecta for a documentary. Which is why I’m sort of loathe to post this first clip from the film, which features an awkwardly long cut of Shields running to some kind of grating dubstep track that I hope we can just collectively agree to ignore?
The trail of the tape
Directors: Drea Cooper and Zackery Canepari
Cast: Claressa “T-Rex” Shields
Release date: March premiere at SXSW; theatrical release TBD
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: “When I get in the ring, I feel like it’s my time. That’s when all the truth comes out.”
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
So, yeah, let’s just focus on the story! The wonderful story! And on the relatively rare chance that an independent film about a young, black female athlete would be partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign and accepted to premiere at SXSW. As Cooper explains in a video on the Kickstarter page, “This isn’t simply a sports story.” Good, because sports in and of themselves are boring (sorry again, Shawn Johnson). It’s people like Shields who are fascinating.