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PRIDE The Movie: Breaking the Barriers of Racism in Sports

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Pride Movie Racism in Sports Coach Jim Ellis African American swimmers
© CinemaBlend.com

PRIDE The Movie: Breaking the Barriers of Racism in Sports

As a coach, Jim Ellis has a passion not only about coaching kids in swimming but for the sport itself. When asked by Swimming World TV to define passion Jim says "I get up at 4 o'clock in the morning with no regrets, looking forward to going to the pool, administering a workout... that is passion."

And it is this passion for swimming that is being brought onscreen via PRIDE, the 2007 screen adaptation of Jim Ellis' life as the only African American swimmer in the 60s in the South and as a coach of an all-black swim team in the 70s. From CommonSenseMedia.org, Sandie Angulo Chen sums up the film's plot into the following:

Set in the 1970s, Pride follows Ellis after he's turned down for a coaching job at an all-white academy in the affluent Philadelphia suburbs. Jobless, he takes a temporary gig cleaning up a Philly rec center that's scheduled to close. When he uncovers and refills the pool -- much to the amusement of center maintenance worker Elston (Bernie Mac) -- a few local teens decide to dive in rather than hang out in the parking lot. Thus begins the fledgling swim team, which single-handedly keeps the center open.

Of course, when the team members show up at their first official meet in their rickety yellow bus (at the same academy that snubbed Ellis), the race and class divide that separates them from their competitors becomes as crystal as the Olympic-sized pool's water. Ellis is embarrassed at the team's showing, and the kids realize they'll have to fully commit in order to really compete.

From the simple summary above, one gets the sense that it follows the formula of all feel-good underdog dramas we've seen. In this case, it's an all-black swim team competing against white affluent swim teams in an official meet. Of course, the underdog wins in the end. This movie, however, veers away from the overly sentimental and gets right into the heart of the conflict: racism. It presents racism in context. It's the 60s and 70s and the region is the South, an area more racially segregated than anywhere in the US. It also shows conflict between the rich and the poor.

Viewers cannot help but cheer on the young Black swimmers overcoming the odds and winning in the end. The message that the film tries to impart is to be the best you can be despite the adversities thrown your way. This also reflects what Coach Ellis said in an interview with SwimmingWorld TV: "You can be anything that you wanna be if you strive for it and work for it. If you set a goal, work for it as a goal, you can achieve it." These are words of encouragement for everyone; not only for Black kids but all minorities who ever thought they couldn't do it or feel they don't fit because they come from a different race, a misunderstood sector of society or a minority group.

Coach Ellis has also expressed hope "that people turn around and look at swimming as a viable sport for young people in inner cities, for minorities... so it's not completely a white sport." These sports programs will help keep kids away from drugs and violence. Their young minds and bodies are overflowing with energy and this energy can be directed towards activities that will teach them discipline and build a love of sports that will break the popular belief that there are White sports like swimming or Black sports like basketball. A sport is for everyone no matter the race. All it takes are belief and the will to reach your goal.

Rated: PG

Distributor: Lions Gate Films

Release Date: 2007-03-23

Starring: Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Kimberly Elise, Tom Arnold

Directed by Sunu Gonera

Produced by Brett Forbes, Paul Hall, Michael Ohoven, Patrick Rizzotti, Adam Rosenfelt, John Sacchi

Written by Kevin Michael Smith, Michael Gozzard, J. Mills Goodloe, Norman Vance Jr.

The movie's Official Site

Written by Claire Bretana. © 2007 DiversityWorking.com

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