Sister Act: Venus and Serena

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This Wednesday and for one night only, Cineplex will be showing the documentary Venus and Serena, an all-access look to the American sisters who have dominated tennis for over a decade.

Venus and Serena Williams have taken sibling rivalry to uncharted heights, using their complex relationship to feed their drive to win. They have also pushed the barriers of age in a discipline in which a thirty year-old player is considered a veteran.

The film focuses on the 2011 season, their heyday behind them, but still a competitive force in the tour. Serena had to overcome a blood clot in her leg and a pulmonary embolism, while Venus endured severe muscular pain over the year. The narrative is regularly interrupted by footage of their early years, including their days in Compton (his father saw tennis as a way out of the infamous neighborhood). Venus was the prototype, Serena followed the pattern.

As much as the film is about the Williams sisters, their dad -Richard Williams- is about as important. A veritable force of nature, the strict paterfamilias pushed the girls relentlessly. The film dedicates precious little time to the side effects of such brand of discipline, besides the girls’ obvious drive to win.

Directors Maiken Baird (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) and Michelle Major took over three years to put together the documentary from over 450 hours of footage. The pair also coerced friends, rivals and witnesses of Williams sisters’ achievements to participate in the film, including Bill Clinton, Chris Rock and Anna Wintour.

While fascinating, Venus and Serena is too flashy and polished for a doc, a tad reminiscent of an ESPN special. Given the subject’s willingness to bare it all (figuratively), a more raw approach would have been welcome. Nonetheless, it’s well worth your time and you don’t have to be a tennis buff to enjoy it.

Wednesday 17th, Cineplex Southland Mall, at 7.30 pm.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

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