An entertaining and powerful documentary about the life and cultural impact of tennis icon Arthur Ashe, the first Black athlete to win a Grand Slam singles title.
To date, the only Black tennis player to ever win at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, Ashe remains a legend to those for whom he blazed a trail. Off the court, he later became a campaigner for AIDS awareness and against apartheid, and actively advocated for equal rights for African Americans. But his journey from hero to activist was an unlikely one, especially in an era when his apparent conformity was questioned next to more outspoken Black sports stars like Muhammad Ali.
Directing alongside acclaimed documentarian Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI; Two Trains Runnin’, MIFF 2017), Rex Miller follows up his co-directed VR short Ashe ’68 (MIFF 2019) with an expansive film that examines the tennis icon’s early years in the segregated American South, his rise to stardom and his eventual political awakening. An audience and critical hit at the Telluride, BFI and Chicago film festivals, Citizen Ashe combines old photos, home-movie footage and vivid reflections from the likes of Billie Jean King and – Ashe’s tempestuous one-time student – John McEnroe into a portrait of a formidable sporting hero and his indelible influence.
A fitting tribute to a humble pioneer, chronicling his importance during his era and his lasting legacy in ours.
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