4 film fests with a sporty side

It's a good time to be a fan of sports-themed movies.

Few things tug at the heartstrings more than seeing your favorite team win or lose (the recent UNC/Villanova NCAA Championship basketball game comes to mind), or witnessing an athlete defy all odds to cross a finish line. Even cheering on a fictional sports character, like Rudy or Rocky or even Happy Gilmore, as he/she goes from underdog to champion can come pretty close. This month finds a few film festivals where you can catch flicks featuring athletic stories:

All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival
(Los Angeles, CA: April 14–17)

In its seventh year, the All Sports LA Film Festival will feature films (shorts, documentaries, dramas, comedies) about golf, skimboarding, Judo, boxing, mountain biking, skateboarding, basketball, hockey, aerial skiing and more. Seriously, anything in the wide world of sports is welcome here. Jury members include Olympian Carl Lewis and ESPN reporter Holly Rowe, among other big names in the sports world, too.

One to Watch:HEART: Flatline to Finish Line (Director David Watkins)
This documentary follows six individuals who’ve suffered from heart disease on their emotional journey from hospital beds to an Ironman triathlon finish line. If you’ve ever watched a profile piece during the Ironman World Championship, you know this one will probably draw a few tears.

Newport Beach Film Festival
(Newport Beach, California: April 21–28)

With more than 350 independent and international films, the Newport Beach Film Festival covers pretty much all topics possible—the environment, music, art, architecture and design, and action sports. Given the festival’s location, there's clearly a focus on water sports, but you can expect to see anything from skateboarding and snowboarding to surfing and skydiving.

One to Watch: Dirty Old Wedge(Director Tim Burnham)
The backstory behind local surfing hotspot The Wedge, a piece of shoreline along the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach that was accidentally created in the ‘30s, is the focus of this documentary. It also looks at how the spot has impacted the community over time and what it’s meant for their access to body surfing, surfing and boogie boarding.

Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day at the Tribeca Film Festival
(New York City, NY: April 23)

The Tribeca Film Festival always draws a celebrity-driven crowd, with its roster of impressive, Oscar-worthy movies and panel discussions. However, there’s one day on the schedule during which guests may look a little sportier than usual. The annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day features performances, interactive sports games and demos from some of NYC’s favorite pro teams and organizations like the Knicks, Jets, Liberty, and more.

One to Watch: The Phenom (Director Noah Buschel)
This film, starring Ethan Hawke, Johnny Simmons and Paul Giamatti, is about a major-league rookie pitcher who chokes on the mound. He’s dropped down to the minors, prescribed sports therapy sessions and forced to face the root of his anxiety issues, a broken relationship with his ex-con father.

newportFILM Sports Hosted by the International Tennis Hall of Fame
(Newport, Rhode Island: April 29–May 1)

In addition to feel-good sports documentaries, the newportFILM Sports festival offers discussion panels, conversations with athletes and filmmakers, parties, training clinics and even yoga classes throughout the weekend.

One to Watch: The Weekend Sailor(Director Bernardo Arsuaga)
A feature documentary, this film is about the amazing true story of an inexperienced Mexican team’s win of the first Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race (known today as the Volvo Ocean Race) in 1974. Not only was it the first sailing race of its kind, but the winning team was also led by a self-made millionaire.