Description from TIFF 2009 catalog by Thom Powers:
Barry Levinson has covered a lot of ground in his film career &”8211; from Southeast Asia in Good Morning, Vietnam to Las Vegas in Rain Man &”8211; but he always comes back to Baltimore, from Diner to Tin Men to Avalon and more. In this Mavericks session, Levinson will present the world premiere of his latest work set in Baltimore, The Band That Wouldn’t Die, an hour-long documentary about a marching band that kept hope alive for the city’s football fans. You don’t need to care about sports to be swept up in the film’s emotional story about people fighting for something they love. Following the screening, Levinson will sit down for a long conversation about what draws him back to his hometown.
The Band That Wouldn’t Die is part of an extraordinary project produced by ESPN called 30 for 30. In honour of its thirtieth anniversary, the channel commissioned thirty renowned filmmakers to direct a personal documentary related to sports. It’s the kind of carte blanche that filmmakers dream about. Stylistically, they were encouraged to pursue their own path rather than conform to a house style. The Festival is proud to present the first two completed works in this endeavour (see the other on the facing page).
For Levinson, ESPN’s invite meant a chance to explore a story that might be classified “only in Baltimore.” In 1984, the erratic and alcoholic owner of the Baltimore Colts, Robert Irsay, made a rash decision to move the team. One night in March, moving vans shipped the Colts’ possessions to Indianapolis. The next morning, fans awoke to the news in stunned disbelief. The team’s volunteer marching band was among the hardest hit. But the members dedicated themselves to bringing professional football back to Baltimore. Levinson writes, “They didn’t stop until 1996 when Baltimore got the Cleveland team and renamed them the Ravens, after the Edgar Allan Poe poem. Poe didn’t grow up in Baltimore, but according to folklore, he died drunk in a gutter there. Baltimore will take its heroes any way it can get them.”
About the director:
Barry Levinson is a Baltimore-born director, screenwriter and producer of both film and television. He began his career as a writer for programmes including The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine and The Carol Burnett Show. His films, many of which have received prestigious awards, include Diner (83), Tin Men (87), Good Morning, Vietnam (87), Rain Man (88), which won four Academy Awards&”174;, including best director, Wag the Dog (97) and the documentary The Band That Wouldn’t Die (09).
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