Gold Medal Worthy Film: Race

Kalyn Hayslett, Verge Editor

I remember in elementary school learning about Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens during African-American Heritage Month, and when I saw the trailer for “Race” bring to life everything I learned, I knew at that moment it was a must see.

“Race” depicts Owens’ life and walks the audience through his outstanding track and field accomplishments while showing his humanity: his fears, his doubts and his personality.

Born with both passion and talent for track, Owens broke records in elementary and in high school, which got the attention of Ohio State University.

Not even Owens’ tremendous skills could shield him from discrimination and segregation at Ohio State University, but Owens decided out of sheer determination to be a part of one the best track programs.

Stephan James, who played Owens, did a fantastic job embodying the emotions Owens felt, especially when faced with hatred.

Nothing Owens had was given to him, not even the respect of his Ohio track coach Larry Synder, played by Jason Sudeikis. But throughout the film the audience witnesses the dynamic of their relationship transition from awkward to family-like bonds.

These two actors were both so believable, and there were times when both Owens and Coach Synder doubted themselves but knew exactly what to say to encourage each other.

Watching how both Owens and Coach Synder defended each other became symbols of hope defeating instances of injustices both on and off the field.

I was compelled to examine all of the areas in my life where I experience privilege: able-bodied, Christian and heterosexual and how I can be that ally for underrepresented people.

The movie was so powerful because it had so many take-aways: celebrating and honoring African-American heritage to not only help African-American students understand their identity but to educate society about these unsung heroes.

However, this movie was extremely stressful to watch because the director places the audience right in the middle of the conflict.

When Owens was shell-shocked by the seeing the large crowd or anxiously waiting at the starting line, the audience could fell his emotions as if were in the moment with him.

There was not a time throughout the film that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat because it was so well written.

It is easy to look up Jesse Owens and learn that he broke four world records in four separate divisions in 1935 at the Big Ten Championships and that he won four Olympic gold medals in Nazi Germany during 1936.

However, this film showed that his talent was gold medal worthy as well as his character because he had to perform under mind-blowing pressure.

Owens, Coach Synder, American Olympic Committee and National Association of Advancement Colored People all had to make tough decisions.

The Berlin Olympics was no longer just about competing in sporting events, but was a battle of political ideologies.

Determining whether America should compete in the Olympics, determining to run in the place of Jewish Olympians, determining whether to compete while injured during the Big Ten meet were just a few of the many tough decisions that were made.

Knowing that in the midst of racial segregation in both Germany and America Owens still performed with outstanding resilience and perseverance which was worth honoring through this film.

I believe the timing of this film was perfect to show the progression with racial justice as well as a reminder of how much more that needs to be done.

“Race” is a must see and I recommend everyone go and watch it.

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812  or [email protected]