Sport, Hockey, and Film: An Interview with Russell Field, Executive Director of the Canadian Sport Film Festival

On Saturday and Sunday, the 5th annual Canadian Sport Film Festival (CSFF) is taking place in Toronto at the TIFF Lightbox. As usual, the festival will feature a variety of sport-related documentaries that cover a range of topics. Notably, this year’s program includes two films that focus on hockey: Lace Bite and The Uluit: Champions of the North. Hockey in Society is pleased to present an interview with the founder and Executive Director of the CSFF, Dr. Russell Field. In addition to organizing the annual festival, Dr. Field is an accomplished sport historian and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba. We spoke with Dr. Field about the aims and origins of the CSFF, as well as the hockey-related documentaries screening at this year’s festival.

Could you explain a little bit about the Canadian Sport Film Festival – its aims, its focus, etc.?

The intent of the CSFF is to screen films that use sport (broadly defined to include organized sport, physical activity, play, and dance) to tell larger personal, social, and political stories. Our aim is to go beyond the sport highlight to acknowledge the ways in which sport is seen as an accessible language through which to communicate narratives that often go well beyond what is happening on the field.

How and why did you start the Canadian Sport Film Festival? When did it start and how has it grown since then?

The CSFF started in 2008. I started the event in part because I used film in my research and taught a course on sport and film and in part because I regularly went to film festivals and was amazed at both the breadth of sport-related content and its popularity with festival-goers.  The CSFF continues to grow, in many ways because of the things we are able to do beyond screening films in Toronto: bringing in directors to engage in Q&A sessions with audience members, host filmmaking and physical activity workshops for kids, and begin to take CSFF content to cities other than Toronto.

You are screening two hockey films in this year’s Festival. How did you become aware of these films? What do think is their significance to our understanding of the cultural significance of hockey?

We are opening our 2013 event with “Lace Bite,” a film about 40 women who come together to try and set the world record for the longest continuous hockey game (male or female). We are also screening “The Uluit: Champions of the North” about an indigenous women’s hockey team in northern Quebec.

The significance of these films, if they share one, is that they feature women hockey players. In part, these films can be read as women claiming cultural space that in this country has historically been reserved for men. I also think that the films speak more broadly about the ways in which team sport — for better or worse, and it is both — can be places where community is found and formed.

Are you aware of any other hockey-related documentaries that you would like to see in the Festival? Any recommendations for our readers?

I wish I could give you some insight into what is coming to theatres near you. I don’t know of any hockey docs currently in production, but that is largely due that we are so focused on this year’s festival that I haven’t invested a lot of time (yet) in learning what films we might invite for future years.


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