"The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at."- Jesse Owens
The sports movie craze came and went a few years ago, and this movie is definitely flying under the radar. It's early to say something like this, but I can promise you that Race is one of the most important movies of the year. The story of Jesse Owens' victory in the 1963 Olympics is one of hardship, political injustice, and sportsmanship. And while it depicts an important part of our past, this story definitely resonates today.
Not convinced? Here's 4 reasons to see it ASAP.
1. It's accurate.
The production was was supported by the Owens family, the Jesse Owens Foundation, and the Jesse Owens Trust. It doesn't embellish the truth- the story doesn't need embellishing. It's an honest portrayal of who he was and what he accomplished. So if you're a stickler for historical accuracy, you're in luck.
2. It's unflinching.
Lots of WWII stories like to paint Americans as the heroes of the story, going over to Europe to save the day. But the American public was not as selfless as that myth would have us believe. In 1941, segregation was the norm. Anti-Semitic rallies were taking place in New York city supporting the Nazi regime.
Unlike other war stories, Race is incredibly precise in its depiction of history. It's a story about Jesse Owens overcoming adversity, but it's also about the way the odds were stacked against him.
3. It doesn't erase Jesse's identity.
When it comes to stories about African-American heroes, some films depict these real men and women like the everyman, like their race was incidental to their drive and abilities. This mentality feeds into the myth that anyone can accomplish anything if they try hard enough.
"I don't care about any of that!" "You're white Larry! You don't have to."
The truth is, as always, a little more complex. The real-life Larry Snyder was truly invested in the spirit of competitive sport, but that was hardly the case everywhere. What if Owens had been turned down, which was the norm? What if he had died due to the extreme poverty conditions he and his family lived in (which almost happened)? Yes, he overcame adversity, but why were these obstacles there in the first place? They had very little to do with luck and everything to do with the institutions in place that systematically took power from nonwhite people.
4. It's inspiring.
I don't think it's much of a spoiler to tell you that Jesse Owens walks away with four gold medals at the end of this movie- it's history. The gift of this movie is not the surprise ending. It's seeing Owens accomplish the seemingly impossible. It's seeing the smile spread across his face. It's the promise that no matter what the world thinks of you, you have value, you are important, and you don't need them to be great.