Sports legends Martina Navratilova, Jack Nicklaus, Edwin Moses and Nadia Comaneci appear in new sports documentary WINNING, and here The Carousel talks exclusively to the director Jacqueline Joseph.
WINNING, that is debuting in Australia well-timed with the Australian Open, features rare archival footage of Martina Navratilova along with Romanian Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, US track and field star Edwin Moses and 16-time Australian Open Champion, Dutch Paralympian tennis champion Esther Vergeer.
For Jacqueline, when making WINNING, it was more than just capturing the fame and fortune of the athletes and she highlights how the film differentiates from previous sports documentaries by capturing a unique and intimate window into the the athletes’ lives, that have never been revealed before.
We sat down with Jacqueline to find out the background of WINNING, why she chose the athletes she did and how she managed to earn their trust.
What made you choose these five athletes for WINNING?
I was looking for athletes who had won multiple major titles, men and women, Olympic and non-Olympic athletes from different countries. I was seeking athletes who not only transformed themselves and transformed their sports, but also transcended sports. After winning multiple major titles and achieving fame and fortune over many years, why are these legendary athletes still practicing 5 hours a day? It’s this question that make them so unique.
What made each athlete unique to the other?
Besides each athlete achieving professional greatness, they all had very personal stories and different kinds of achievements.
Take Jack Nicklaus for instance, his biggest challenge was balancing family life with such an extremely demanding and consuming career.
And Martina Navratilova brought off-court fitness to women’s professional tennis and women’s sports.
Edwin Moses was incredibly faithful to the the science of sports and he ran “clean” and remained staunchly anti-doping. To this day, he maintains the longest winning streak in track and field history.
Romanian-born gymnast Nadia Comaneci was driven by the pursuit of perfection and she had to mature with the world’s eyes on her, as she tried to exceed her early success.
And finally, Esther Vergeer, the wheelchair bound Paralympian tennis player from the Netherlands who overcame adversity and every obstacle that presented itself to her.
Were any of them somewhat reticent at first about being involved in the documentary?
The athletes were all very excited about the premise of the film and wanted to be involved, but since they are very busy and travel a lot, the biggest challenge was finding time in their schedule.
Each of these athletes have led quite public lives, yet are at the basis quite private people. How did you gain their trust?
I did a lot of research before interviewing each athlete so I was very familiar with their careers and lives. At the beginning of each interview, I spent some time playing a brief, fun game as a bit of an “ice-breaker” to kick-off the interview and I thought carefully about the sequence of questions that I asked each of them to ensure they felt comfortable. They’ve all done many, many interviews, but you need to develop trust for them to open up, because it’s difficult to humanise athletes. People put them on a pedestal but at the same time we need to make their stories accessible. People think their lives were perfect but they had all faced adversity, just like anyone else.
What surprised you the most about each of your subjects?
I was impressed that despite the fact that each of the athletes has been interviewed so many time, they still shared very insightful comments about their careers and talked about poignant moments in their lives that I had not heard about previously.
What is a trait that each of the athletes seemed to share with each other?
Each athlete seemed to have found and invested in the sport that challenged them the most and they were all extremely passionate about pursuing the craft of their sport. I think it’s this trait and their drive and commitment, that everyone can relate to.
Australian premiere of independent sports documentary WINNING, by filmmaker Jacqueline Joseph. A film that illustrates the lives of five legendary athletes Martina Navratilova, Nadia Comaneci, Jack Nicklaus, Edwin Moses and Esther Vergeer. Cinema Nova Theatre, 380 Lygon St, Carlton VIC, 3053. Feb 1, 6:45pm. $13 to $20.50. cinemanova.com.au/films/winning