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Film’s producer to visit Arkansas


This article was published December 7, 2012 at 3:53 a.m.

— If you’re looking for a worthwhile subject for documentary, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the person sitting next to you. That’s the experience of Sacramento, Calif.-based producer Keith Ochwat, who will be in town Saturday to promote Age of Champions, a documentary about athletes who resoundingly prove that age is simply a number.

“My filmmaking partner [director Christopher Rufo] and I were at a conference for nonprofits and the arts, and the woman sitting next to us introduced herself as the head of the National Senior Games Association [www.nsga. com],” Ochwat says. “And when she explained that when she puts on the Senior Olympics for athletes who are 50 to 100 plus, we knew we had to make a film about it. So we sent out a casting call to all the athletes who were enrolled in the Senior Olympics back in 2009.”

He’ll be presenting the PBSbound documentary at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Market Street Cinema at 1521 Merrill Drive in west Little Rock. Admission is free, but attendees should call (877) 926-8300 or visit Doors open at 1 p.m. Ochwat is making a 20-city tour and will answer questions along with Gail Ezelle of the Senior Games and Herb Sanderson, who represents the AARP campaign “You’ve Earned a Say.”

According to a statement about the film, Sanderson says, “AARP AR believes amazing things are possible at any age. It is our hope that these compelling stories of older, competitive athletes will inspire a continued dialogue about the issues like Medicare and Social Security, because Arkansans have earned a say!”

The film includes athletes from across the country and differing walks of life. At 100, Roger Gen- tilhomme of Cape Cod, Mass., gives a 93-year-old spring chicken the match of his life. Gentilhomme’s achievement seems even more formidable when you consider that he was 78 when he started playing.

The film also includes black swimmers Bradford (who is battling cancer) and John Tatum, 88 and 90, of Washington; pole vaulter Adolph Hoffman; and the ferocious Tigerettes, an allgranny (65 and up) basketball team from Livingston, La., who dominate in the key. The film includes a clip of them showing some teens how the game is played.

“We weren’t just looking for special athletes. We were looking for special people who had backgrounds that were inspiring beyond sports, and that’s what we found in John and Brad having overcome segregation, Adolph going for the world record and the Tigerettes being the ladies that you love to hate,” Ochwat says.

“The director and I really had an eye-opening experience making this film. It really changed our perception of aging. We found that a lot of people who watch the film feel the same way. When you see these people competing, overcoming arthritis, overcoming cancer to do something that they love, it really shatters one’s expectations for aging.”

In the film, the Tigerettes beat dozens of teams in their quest for gold, including the Arkansas Diamonds, whose loss is briefly depicted in the film. Since then, the Diamonds have taken first place in the Winter Basketball Classic in San Antonio in February. Nonetheless, the Tigerettes still inspire fear in the senior-citizen circuit.

“That was one of the reasons we chose the Tigerettes,” Ochwat says. “More so than any of the other characters in the movie, they sort of put that image of old people sitting in the rocking chair to bed because they’re really fierce competitors. They will sacrifice their bodies and put their opponents’ bodies at risk to do so.”

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 12/07/2012

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