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Documentary Foundation’s ‘Age of Champions’ premieres at Silverdocs

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After two long years of tilling, sowing and watering the fields, Documentary Foundation, a local film organization, will finally be able to reap the rewards of its labor, making its debut at the prestigious Silverdocs Film Festival in Washington, D.C., on June 19.

Producer of the film and Managing Director for Documentary Foundation Keith Ochwat said he and Creative Director Christopher Rufo grew up in Sacramento.  When they got into film after college, they realized that the city had a lot to offer and they wanted to contribute to that as much as possible, especially with the next generation.

As a result, the nonprofit Documentary Foundation was born in 2007.   Based in Midtown, its mission is to educate and inspire by producing documentaries for PBS as well as teaching high school students how to make documentary films through their Doc School, a fundamental film production course for local high school students, at KVIE’s studios.

“Age of Champions,” their third film, is a documentary about the Senior Olympics.  Submitted in March for consideration, the film was selected out of more than 2,200 submissions from around the globe representing 50 countries to be one of 100 films viewed during the festival, according to Ochwat.

Ochwat explained that while at a conference for a nonprofit organization in San Francisco, he and Rufo met a woman who helped organize the Senior Olympics. As she went on to describe her work, they both knew it was worth pursuing for a film. “It was all very serendipitous,” he said.

Documentary Foundation did a casting call to all athletes enrolled and received more than 1,000 responses, from which it chose four to film. The Celadrin Tigerettes, a women’s basketball team and winner of six U.S. gold medals, was one of the chosen. Mavis Albin, team captain, said that while they are located in Baton Rouge, La., the team is made up of six women from all over, ranging in age from 64 to 69 years old.

Albin said Ochwat and Rufo began filming them everywhere, inside and outside of playing basketball, in June 2009 till the fall of 2010 and that the whole process was a “wonderful” experience.

“It all started out as a way to just get our name out there for our sponsor, Celadrin. I never expected it to turn into a documentary, but it was all just great,” Albin said. “Keith and Chris worked really hard to get it right. I think the final product is very inspiring to other people, especially to the 50-and-older group. I hope it makes them realize how absolutely breathtaking their retirement years can be.”

Silverdocs is exclusively a documentary film festival that was created out of a partnership between the American Film Institute and The Discovery Channel, said Festival Director Sky Sitney.

The festival is going on its ninth year and has produced 14 Academy Award nominated films, according to Sitney.

All six Academy Award-nominated documentary films in 2009 were screened at Silverdocs 2008, Ochwat said.

“Two years ago, we were kind of just these two little guys, and now we feel we’re on a real trajectory to success,” Ochwat said.

“We weren’t sure what our chances would be, but you always want to throw your hat in the ring for the big show in town,” Ochwat added. “Everyone has been really supportive, and there’s really no better festival to premiere at.”

In regard to the film’s selection, Sitney said, “It is a beautifully crafted film. It tells a really compelling and, quite frankly, inspiring story. We also knew this film would have large audience appeal, and it just represented exactly what we are always looking for, which is great artistry and direction.”

Both Sitney and Ochwat noted that it was also a plus that two of the film subjects are from Washington, D.C., and will actually be there when it premieres.

“The organization has grown tremendously the past three years, and the Silverdocs premiere will be a huge step forward for the organization,” Ochwat said.

“Chris and I usually get a kick out of doing these kinds of things, especially being the only Sacramentans,” Ochwat added. “They’re always amazed, wondering how we do things in little old Sac, but there are a lot of benefits. We were born and raised here, and the culture is welcoming and warm. More importantly, it’s where our roots, family and friends – our support network – are.”

Currently, Documentary Foundation is trying to raise $7,500 for finishing funds and travel costs for the festival. If you’d like to donate, click here.

For more information on Documentary Foundation and its current work, check out its website.

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