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The Dogwoof film, to be directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard, will explore tennis great Ashe’s enduring relevance to current social movements. The new documentary will debut on CNN Films and HBO Max in 2022.
Ashe, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1993, won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. His U.S. Open win in 1968 occurred against a tumultuous backdrop that included the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., anti-Vietnam protests and the civil rights movement.
On top of his groundbreaking sporting achievements and civil rights work in America, Ashe fought against South Africa’s apartheid system in the 1970s and 1980s, even getting arrested at a protest in Washington, D.C. He became an AIDS activist in the late 1980s after contracting HIV through blood transfusions related to heart surgery.
“I was a teenager in the 1960s and remember the extraordinary achievements of Arthur Ashe on the tennis court. But I knew little of the obstacles and challenges he faced on and off the court in the white world of professional tennis. Working on this film has been an absolute eye-opener into the man, and the player, who faced all of his challenges with a level of dignity and integrity we should all try to measure up to,” co-director Pollard added in his own statement.
Citizen Ashe will include interviews with Ashe’s widow, Jeanne Moutousammy-Ashe, his brother, Johnnie Ashe, as well as fellow tennis legends Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Donald Dell, and Lenny Simpson and activist Prof. Harry Edwards.
Citizen Ashe is also produced by Rexpix, Stick Figure Productions and Get Lifted Film Co., with Beth Hubbard and Anna Godas sharing producer credits.
“Our film is a first-person exploration of Arthur Ashe in his own words, describing his own origin story as a social activist. He created a unique blueprint for advancing civil rights for disenfranchised and oppressed people throughout the world, amid a tumultuous time of demonstrations and assassinations. Citizen Ashe shows a true champion’s defining moments,” co-director Miller said in a statement.
The distribution deal for Citizen Ashe was negotiated by Godas, on behalf of Dogwoof Ltd. and the filmmakers. Stacey Wolf, senior vp business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both of CNN Worldwide, negotiated on behalf of CNN Films.
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