SBD/April 5, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Venus, Serena Williams Documentary Debuts; Filmmaker Denies Sisters Withdrew Support

A new documentary on VENUS and SERENA WILLIAMS titled “Venus and Serena” debuted on iTunes on Thursday and will “hit theaters on May 10,” according to Douglas Robson of USA TODAY. The film, from MICHELLE MAJOR and MAIKEN BAIRD, “follows the sisters during their turbulent 2011 season.” Major “denied reports that the sisters withdrew their support after seeing a rough cut of the film and failing to show up for a scheduled appearance at the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.” Major said that the sisters were “paid for their time as well as for old photos and video footage.” Major, when asked if the sisters would benefit from any commercial success of the film, “declined to elaborate.” Major and Baird “became fascinated with the sisters when they broke onto the national stage in the 1990s.” Baird in an e-mail wrote, "They broke just about every barrier as African-American sisters when they became number one and number two in the world in tennis. It's the great American story rich with sisterhood, family, race, hard work and tenaciousness.” Robson noted for those “familiar with the Williams story, the film doesn't break much new ground.” What it “does do is piece together their long, extraordinary journey from the streets of Compton, Calif., to winning a combined 22 major singles titles and becoming the first sisters to occupy the top two spots in tennis simultaneously.” Some of the “most compelling shots are the early footage of the sisters doing drills with their father, driving around in a beat-up Volkswagen minibus, and being interviewed as young children” (USA TODAY, 4/4).

FAMILY VALUES: SI.com's Courtney Nguyen noted the "best scene features an argument between Serena and hitting partner SASCHA BAJIN after her third-round win over VICTORIA AZARENKA at the 2011 U.S. Open." Warming down from her match "on a treadmill, Serena is furious at Bajin, telling him he was horrible in practice and needs to improve." It is "one of the few moments in the movie that doesn’t feel like Serena cares about her image or is trying to be 'on' for the cameras, and it’s incredible to hear her speak with such vulnerability and self-awareness as to how she thinks she’s perceived in the locker room and how much she’s hurt and motivated by it." The film, "more than anything, shows just how close a relationship Venus and Serena have." However, it does take an "arguably unnecessary tangent" into their father RICHARD WILLIAMS' "womanizing history, questioning the family about his other families and children" (SI.com, 4/4).
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