By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
When Luchina Fisher’s documentary entitled, “Team Dream,” premiered to its first audience at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in August, it received a standing ovation.
The 16-minute documentary, which is a part of the Queen Collective program, followed the story of 82-year-old Ann Smith and 76-year-old Madeline Murphy Rabb who, together, trained for and competed in swimming for the National Senior Games, which were held in Fort Lauderdale last summer.
The friends proved you’re never too old to dream, and they refute common misconceptions and stereotypes that Black people do not or can not swim.
Now, the film has a chance of winning Best Documentary Short at the 95th Academy Awards, which is set for March 12, 2023. It would be Fisher’s first Oscar nomination and first win if the Academy selects “Team Dream.”
“So many African Americans are only stuck on our most recent history, which is that many of us either struggle with swimming, don’t know how to swim or don’t have access to pools and swim lessons… yet, there was a history so much further beyond that that dates back to the early African tribes and civilizations that lived on the water and were master swimmers,” said Fisher. “That is the tradition we really come from, and we were separated from that history by slavery and by Jim Crow.”
Before stepping into directing, producing and writing films, Fisher was a journalist, although she had a love for film from a young age. Her interest in visual storytelling drew her to making documentaries, which she said can capture the hearts and minds of viewers.
Her directorial debut, “Mama Gloria,” told the story of the late Gloria Allen, a Chicago Black transgender icon who started a school for unhoused transgender youth in the city. The documentary won awards at the Teaneck International and Cineodyssey Film Festivals.
For her next project, Fisher decided that she wanted to create a film involving Black people and the outdoors. She recalled an organization that her long-time friend Derrick Milligan started, Team Dream Sistas.
The organization empowers women of color with varying ages and athletic prowess to connect by training and competing in multi-sport events, like marathons, road races, cycling and swimming.
When Fisher reached out to Milligan, he told her about Smith and Rabb, who both returned to swimming in their retirement.
The pair came from families of swimmers and did their fair share of teaching others how to swim. Milligan served as their swim coach.
After meeting them, Fisher knew their story was inspiring in and outside of the pool.
Smith was the first Black full-time faculty member at Eastern Illinois University and the first African-American woman to win a statewide position in Illinois. Rabb was the executive director of the Chicago Office of Fine Arts and dedicated her life to creating opportunities for Black artists.
When Milligan told the friends about the documentary opportunity, Rabb said they were at first indifferent about it. But, as they started shooting and more film equipment appeared in their homes, they understood the significance of the film.
When the credits rolled at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, the pair broke into tears.
“We’re very proud of this film, and we just hope that it touches lives and changes points of view and dismisses certain preconceptions,” said Rabb.
Fisher said witnessing Rabb and Smith’s journey heightened her competitive spirit and even pushed her not to limit herself in the aspirations she has for “Team Dream.”
Right now, the film is running the festival circuit, but next year it will be widely released and air on BET.
While “Team Dream” importantly delves into the history of African tribes who were once the greatest swimmers in the world, it also shows viewers how to pursue their goals.
“Universally, they are examples of what we’re all capable of and that really the limitation is in our minds,” said Fisher. “They decided to become athletes in retirement. Being a part of a sport, or a team, or competing is not just something for kids or teenagers, it’s really something we can all aspire to throughout our lifetime.”
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The post ‘Team Dream’ launches Oscar campaign for Best Documentary Short, telling the inspiring story of two Black women who returned to swimming in their retirement appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .