INDEPENDENT LENS

T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold

Claressa "T-Rex" Shields of Flint, Mich., won a gold medal at London's 2012 Olympics, the first time women were allowed to box in the Olympics. But when she returned to Flint, she learned that a gold medal doesn't always make life easier.

About The Film

Flint, a city made famous by Michael Moore's documentary "Roger & Me," and more recently by the lead poisoning water crisis, has been hard-hit for years as factories closed, jobs left, and crime, unemployment, and poverty became endemic. It's the most unlikely and challenging of backgrounds for an Olympic athlete to make it through. But Claressa “T-Rex” Shields is as tough as they come.

"T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold" is the coming-of-age story of boxing phenom Claressa Shields, who was just 17 years old when she won the Olympic gold medal for women’s boxing in 2012. Now with a record of 69-1, she is ranked number one in the world heading into her second Olympic competition, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

Shields was 13 years old when it was announced that women would for the very first time compete in boxing at the 2012 London Olympics. Although she’d only been boxing for two years, her coach, Jason Crutchfield, predicted she'd be there — and that she'd win gold. It seemed an audacious dream for Shields, whose prior aspirations included having ten kids by the time she was 26, and who grew up bouncing between homes while her father was in prison and her mother struggled with addiction. To accomplish her dream, she would need a stable life. Coach Jason and his family took her in, housed her, and kept her focused.

The film traces her rise as an Olympic athlete from the streets of Flint to the podium in London, and the subsequent challenges and disappointments as Claressa watches fellow athletes receive recognition and endorsements while none come forward to support her, raising questions about race, class, and gender bias. Agents suggest she should soften her image, but Claressa is her own person, ready to push the boundaries while fighting for another gold and a better life.

The Filmmakers

Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper (Directors) have been working together since 2009. They’ve produced and directed the award-winning online short documentary series California Is a place. With over ten million views online, the films have screened at film festivals around the world, including Sundance. Their compelling visual style and deeply personal storytelling has earned Cooper and Canepari award nominations from IDFA DocLab for Best Digital Storytelling and Documentary Project of the Year by POYi (Pictures of the Year International). The directing duo landed on FilmmakerMagazine’s Top 25 New Filmmakers to Watch list. They’re also an accomplished commercial directing team.

Sue Jaye Johnson (Producer) began documenting Shields in 2011 at her first elite boxing tournament. She then spearheaded an unprecedented collaboration between The New York Times, NPR and WNYC to document the first women to box in the Olympics. “Teen Contender,” the feature radio documentary she co-produced with Radio Diaries, followed Claressa’s journey to the Olympics and won a Peabody Award.

-- Independent Lens

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