Press release from ESPN Films, June 11, 2015:
Versus, a short film series from ESPN Films and executive produced by Eva Longoria, will feature four additional titles premiering in 2015. Eva Longoria’s Versus debuted May 8 with “Go Sebastien Go!,” directed by Longoria, and the remaining films will continue rolling out with one per month through September. The topics will look at female NBA referee Violet Palmer, figure skater Surya Bonaly and her one-bladed back flip, former star football player Jim Plunkett, and the amazing story of Jennifer Bricker, a gymnast born without legs who later found out her hero, Dominique Moceanu, was her biological sister.
The Versus series aims to explore moments of inspiration when the world of sports transcended the action on the field. Each film will premiere on a Friday episode of SportsCenter and then will be made available for viewing on espn.com/versus. Directors for the series include Melissa Johnson (“Brittney Griner: Lifesize,” “Love in the Time of March Madness”), comedian and actress Retta, actor Ricardo Chavira, and Joie Jacoby (“Return to Mexico City,” “Sarah & Suzanne”).
“As a philanthropist and activist, I’m proud to work with ESPN Films and these talented directors to showcase documentaries that tell not only remarkable sports stories but, more importantly, stories that focus on moral obstacles off the field, making them larger than the sport itself,” said Longoria.
“Queen Vee,” directed by Melissa Johnson
Premiere: June 19
Imagine enforcing the law and keeping the peace for the biggest athletes in the world. Imagine doing that year after year, night after night, city after city. Now imagine being an NBA referee and a woman. In “Queen Vee”, director Melissa Johnson draws back the curtain on the life of Violet Palmer, who is one of the best officials in the league, male or female. While players, family and her fellow zebras attest to her excellence, game footage demonstrates her uncanny ability to maintain both control and humanity at the same time. As her mother Gussie’s favorite player, Kobe Bryant, says, “She does a kick-ass job.”
“Rebel on Ice,” directed by Retta
Premiere: July 10
Figure skater Surya Bonaly is a three-time World silver medalist, a five-time European champion, the 1991 World Junior Champion and a nine-time French national champion. But beyond any of those accolades, what Bonaly is most remembered for is her amazing one-bladed back flip at the 1998 Winter Olympics—making her the only skater to ever complete one in competition at the Olympics. Despite landing the flip on one skate, the judges ruled the move illegal. Bonaly did not medal, but she did go out on her own terms, a true “Rebel on Ice.”
“Guys Like Us,” directed by Ricardo Chavira
Premiere: August 7
Jim Plunkett never backed down from adversity. Despite being a major high school recruit, Plunkett’s freshman year at Stanford was a letdown, and his coach tried to replace him at quarterback. He refused to be taken out and eventually became a standout at Stanford, winning the Rose Bowl and Heisman his senior year. The start to his pro career was not very different from his turn in college, starting off slow, being traded to several teams, and eventually landing a backup position with the Raiders. It was only when the starting quarterback got injured that Plunkett was thrust into the role, and ended up leading the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories.
“Romanian Roots,” directed by Joie Jacoby
Premiere: September 11
“Romanian Roots” tells the story of Jennifer Bricker, an exceptional athlete in many sports, but whose primary love was gymnastics. Her hero and inspiration was Romanian gymnast Dominique Moceanu, part of the dominant 1996 gold-winning Olympic gymnast team. Born without legs, Jennifer was adopted by the Brickers and later became a state champion and Junior Olympian in tumbling despite her disability. But it was when she turned 16 that her family revealed an even greater surprise – Dominique Moceanu, her hero, was also her biological sister.