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WATCH THE TRAILER


SYNOPSIS

Age of Champions is the story of five competitors who sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics. You’ll meet a 100-year-old tennis champion, 86-year-old pole vaulter, and rough-and-tumble basketball grandmothers as they triumph over the limitations of age. But when one character loses a spouse and another is diagnosed with cancer, they've got to dig even deeper to make their Olympic dreams come true.

The film is slated for a slated for a national broadcast and commercial release on PBS, iTunes, and Amazon July 9th, 2013.


BACKGROUND

Age of Champions premiered at AFI Docs, then screened at prestigious film festivals including Austin, Cambridge, and Doc Edge. The Washington Post described the film as "infectiously inspiring" and its characters have appeared on Martha Stewart, Regis & Kelly, ABC News, and NPR.

The film has sparked a grassroots movement to discuss issues of aging, health, and fitness. The AARP sponsored a twenty-city theatrical tour and more than 1,000 senior organizations have hosted local screenings.

The upcoming PBS broadcast will coincide with the 2013 Senior Olympics, which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio July 19th - August 1st. The filmmakers have partnered with the AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, and National Institute on Aging to encourage viewers to share the film and lead a discussion about healthy aging with their friends, families, and communities.

Filmmakers Christopher Rufo and Keith Ochwat are available for interviews and live appearances through July 31st.


NATIONAL RELEASE DETAILS

National PBS broadcast begins July 9th (check local listings)
Digital release on iTunes, Google Play, and other major channels
DVD release on Amazon, Shop PBS, and other major retailers


CONTACTS




MEET THE CHARACTERS

Watch a six-minute clip introducing each of the characters in the film:




WATCH THE FEATURE FILM

If you prefer to receive a DVD screener, email your request with your name and mailing address to info@documentaryfoundation.org,




CHARACTER BIOS, QUOTES, & IMAGES

ROGER GENTILHOMME, 100-YEAR-OLD TENNIS CHAMPION

Roger is a centenarian and tennis champion from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He’s fought through cancer, arthritis, hernias, and a recent concussion on the court. “As long as I can compete, I’m going to be out there,” he says. “As long as I live, I’m going for the gold medal!”

Quotes

"Many people keep telling me that I’m an inspiration to them. Not only the older people, but the younger people. I had arthritis very bad. I had the cancer operation in ’87. I had a hernia. I’ve lost 5 inches in height. Now, I’m below 5 foot. But whatever happens, you just gotta roll with the punches."

"I understand that the fellow that I'm playing today is only 94 years old, so I'm playing a youngster again. It's hard to find 100 year old tennis players around the country and, if there are any, they don't show up very much. I'd like to meet one one of these days."


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JOHN AND BRAD TATUM, 88- AND 90-YEAR-OLD SWIMMERS

The Tatum brothers are swimmers from Washington, DC. As children, they learned to swim in the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial because there were no integrated pools. They kept their passion for swimming alive until getting their chance to shine as Senior Olympians.

Quotes

"We lived in a neighborhood where there wasn't a pool for blacks. Now, there were pools, but we couldn't go to them. So we swam in the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial or in the river or in the canal in Georgetown." - Bradford

"I won my first gold medal in national competition. Felt like I was on top of the world. Got a gold medal. Instead of on the side for third place, or this side for second place, I was in the middle for gold." -John


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KEY ART
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THE TIGERETTES, 65+ BASKETBALL CHAMPIONS

The Tigerettes are five-time women’s basketball gold medalists from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Off the court, they are charming Southern belles and caring grandmothers. On the court, they transform into winner-take-all competitors who will dive, push, and elbow their way to another title.

Quotes

"We're ordinary grandmothers and people cannot believe that we play basketball. Our record is 165 and 3, and we're going for our number 6 gold medal, and we feel like we're the greatest senior women's basketball team in the United States." -Mavis Albin

"They're not gonna lay down and say, 'OK, Tigerettes, you're gonna win.' You're gonna really have to play rough to win, 'cause we gonna rough you up. They do. I know that. So I gotta stay at the top of my game." -Nikki Leader


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ADOLPH HOFFMAN, 86-YEAR-OLD POLE VAULTER

Adolph is a cattle rancher, World War II veteran, and track and field athlete from Somerset, Texas. This year, he hopes to break the world record in pole vault. However, his top rival Earl Blassingame is looking to unseat him in the discus, shotput, and javelin.

Quotes

"It's been a long time, I've been nipping at the world record at the pole vault. And if I do make it, it'd be like the climax of a story. It would be real satisfying. There's no doubt about it."

"In the Bible it says that you can have faith, but faith is dead without work. So if you've got faith that you can break a record or excel a real good one, you better work at it. The faith is not gonna get you through it. You gotta do it. And I'm a doer."


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BEHIND-THE-SCENES
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ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS

Christopher Rufo and Keith Ochwat are co-founders of the Documentary Foundation, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to documentary production, education, and outreach. They have produced three films for PBS—Age of Champions, Roughing It, and Diamond in the Dunes—and been hailed by the New York Times for their “fascinating material” and “good eye for the unusual.”


HEADLINE AND ANGLE IDEAS

FILM RELEASE

Senior Olympics Documentary Premieres July 9th on PBS
Watch the New Senior Olympics Documentary on PBS
Seniors Chase Olympic Gold in New PBS Documentary


HUMAN INTEREST

100-Year-Old Tennis Champions Wins Olympic Gold
86-Year-Old Pole Vaulter Chases Olympic Gold
Grandmother Basketball Team Wins Gold at 70+ Years Old

SOCIAL IMPACT

New PBS Documentary Inspires Baby Boomers to Stay Active
New PBS Documentary Sparks National Conversation on Aging
Senior Communities Celebrate Aging with New PBS Documentary


HEALTH & FITNESS

New PBS Documentary Reveals Secrets to Healthy Aging
Seniors Defy Expectations About Aging in New PBS Documentary
Healthy, Happy, and Active to 100 Years Old and Beyond



FILMMAKERS' Q&A

What inspired you to make the film?
“We were at a conference for nonprofits in San Francisco and, by chance, met the woman who organizes the National Senior Olympics. When she told us about it, a lightbulb went off. The subject was perfect—diverse locations, colorful characters, exciting visual action, and a ready-made competition structure. Less than a month after that initial conversation, we set off on the road to begin shooting the film.”
-Christopher Rufo

How did you find the characters?
“The first step in production was to send a casting call out to all 10,000 athletes that were going to compete in the Games. Mail poured in from every part of the country. We had more than 1,000 competitors sending us bios, photos, and their life stories. We went through all of the profiles and a few stood out immediately: Roger the 100-year-old tennis player, Adolph the 86-year-old pole vaulting cattle rancher, two brothers that , and these incredible basketball-playing grandmothers with a record of 165-3. Once we read about these people, we knew we had to make the film.”
-Keith Ochwat

What is the message of the film?
“The message of the film is simple: no matter your age or physical ability, you can become more active, healthier, and happier. Maybe you won’t be pole vaulting, but we can all challenge ourselves and the people around us to set the bar a little higher. It’s a message that crosses generations and gives us a positive example for how we can interact with loved ones of different ages. You might see your parents or grandparents in the film. You might see yourself. There’s really something for everyone.”
-Christopher Rufo

Can you tell me more about the Senior Olympics?
“The Senior Games only started in 1987. Today, there are more than 300,000 people who compete in local, state, and national Senior Games. I think it’s very important to remember this is something that wasn’t even considered a possibility less than 30 years ago and is now giving hundreds of thousands of older people something to strive for and a sense of purpose. And as the baby boomers start to hit their 60s and 70s, there will be a greater and greater demand for these kind of activities that challenge older people and help create goals. As a society, it will be more and more important to think of fun and creative ways to engage older people and give them opportunities for participation, whether it’s health and fitness, the arts, or volunteer work in the community.”
-Keith Ochwat

Are there any older people in your life that have inspired you?
“I have a grandfather who’s 92-years-old and plays tennis every day and a grandmother who’s 85-years-old and is extremely spunky. She walks, keeps active with her reading, and is involved in politics. You can occasionally find her protesting at city council meetings. They’re both inspirational and really enjoyed watching Age of Champions. What’s special about the film is that the inspiration seems to go both ways. Older people who have seen the film are always saying that they’re inspired that we’re honoring the older generation. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of having made the film.”
-Christopher Rufo

What was the most surprising thing in making the film?
“People have this idea that senior athletes are cute and it’s great that they’re out there trying. But these people are actually phenomenal competitors and extremely skilled at their sports. I’ll tell you a story that’s a bit embarrassing, but illustrates this point. After a break from shooting with 100-year-old tennis player Roger Gentilhomme, he and his 85-year-old doubles partnered challenged me and the director to a friendly match. At first, we thought we’d take it easy on them—they had a combined age advantage of 135 years. But once we got out onto the court, they beat us! What they lacked in speed and mobility, they made up for in placement, slices, and trick shots. The lesson is simple: never judge someone on their age. They’ll surprise you.”
-Keith Ochwat

How does the film relate to the larger social issue of aging?
“When the United States declared its independence in 1776, the average life expectancy for Americans was 35 years. Today, it’s more than doubled to 78 years, which is the fastest increase in life expectancy in human history, and expected to continue accelerating throughout this century. In the United States, we now have more than 10,000 centenarians. So the issue of aging is only going to become more important and the athletes in the film are pioneering a new way of living after retirement. You don’t have to sit in the rocking chair. You can be active and fully participate in the world into your 80s, 90s, and even 100s. They’re lighting a new path for older people.”
--Christopher Rufo

How did making the film change your perspective on older people?
“Making the film deepened my respect and admiration for the Greatest Generation. People like Adolph, Earl, John, and Roger made it through the Depression, fought to keep us free in World War II, and led the country through the struggle for Civil Rights. But what’s even more inspirational is that all of the characters in the film are still looking forward to the future and achieving new dreams. They have an unwavering conviction that the best in life still lies ahead of them. Despite the tolls of age, they are continuously striving to participate in the next competition or break the next record. They challenge us all to buck convention and never give up in our search for greatness.”
-Keith Ochwat

What are the secrets to healthy aging you learned from the characters?
“There are three principles the characters have followed to stay active and vibrant into old age. First, the basics: eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, manage stress, and avoid bad habits like alcohol and cigarettes. The second key is family and community. None of the athletes could have accomplished what they have without a loving and supporting family. Their children are their biggest cheerleads and give them the emotional and logistical support to keep them going and keep them at the top of their game. Third, and perhaps most importantly, is having a sense of purpose and goals for the future. It can be sports, the arts, volunteering, business, activism—anything that gets you going every morning with a sense of purpose.“
-Christopher Rufo

How can people share the film with their community?
“Right now, more than 1,000 nonprofits, businesses, and community organizations are using the film to start a positive discussion about aging, health, and wellness. We’ve put together a package called the Age of Champions Screening Kit, which includes everything an organization will need to show the film and lead a discussion. We’ve had some great success stories. For example, a senior living community in Oklahoma City showed the film and a 94-year-old woman was so inspired she set the goal of living without her walker for an entire day each week—and she’s kept it up. It’s very inspiring for us as the filmmakers to watch Age of Champions make an impact and give professionals who work with seniors every day a resource they can use to improve the health and wellbeing of people in their communities.”
-Keith Ochwat

Do you have any resources for individuals to start becoming more active?
“We’ve partnered with organizations including AARP, Silver Sneakers, and the National Institute on Aging to provide resources for people who watch the film and want to become more active or inspire seniors in their family to become more active. On our website, if you purchase a DVD, it comes with a free 120-page exercise guide, tip sheets on common illnesses for seniors, and a mini-guide on motivating seniors in your family to start an exercise routine. We want the story of Age of Champions to entertain and inspire you. Then, after you watch the film, we want you to be able to lead a discussion about healthy aging with your family and make positive changes in your lives. We’ve already had some great success stories. For example, A 55-year-old woman recently showed the film to her elderly father who had given up on exercise—by the end of the film, her father was doing jumping jacks in the living room. This is the kind of impact the film can have on your life.”
-Christopher Rufo