January 22, 2008–ESPN has acquired the Sundance documentary KICKING IT as part of a broader deal for the films distribution. The network will retain exclusive television rights worldwide and execute the films digital distribution while working with the filmmakers to secure theatrical, DVD and other distribution.
Produced by award-winning filmmakers Ted Leonsis (Nanking) and directed by Susan Koch (Mario's Story, City at Peace), KICKING IT chronicles the personal struggles and triumphs of seven soccer players from six countries who participated in the 4th Annual Homeless World Cup. The film has specific online and on-air plans to stimulate public discussion and charitable involvement.
KICKING IT speaks to the perseverance of the human spirit and the global impact of sport. As our company continues to expand its global reach on the belief that sport transcends different languages and ways of life to bring people together, a film like KICKING IT is an inspirational guide and a fitting choice for ESPN, said Keith Clinkscales, ESPN senior vice president, content development and enterprises.
AOL Vice Chairman Emeritus Ted Leonsis, whose first documentary Nanking won one of the major awards at the 2007 Sundance Festival, said of ESPNs broad involvement in KICKING IT, Good films entertain, and the best of them also challenge and engage their audiences. It takes a true worldwide leader to spotlight both great sports action and the triumph of the spirit over hardship through the redemptive power of sports so we are thrilled to be teaming up with ESPN to bring KICKING IT to the broadest global audience on all media.
KICKING IT exemplifies filmanthropy, a term Leonsis coined one year ago at the Sundance Film Festival to describe a new approach to filmmaking where storytelling activates discussion as well as volunteerism and new funding to benefit social causes. A public service announcement with Colin Farrell has been developed to accompany airing of the film, directing viewers to the films website, www.kickingitthefilm.com, which features opportunities for viewers to support of the kinds of programs for the homeless spotlighted in KICKING IT.
About the Film
An estimated one billion people watched the last soccer World Cup. An estimated one billion people are homeless, worldwide. Narrated by soccer enthusiast Colin Farrell, KICKING IT tells the compelling story of seven athletes living in both worlds. The film follows them as they train hard, kick drugs and alcohol, and compete on the soccer pitch in Cape Town, South Africa, at one of the most unique sporting events, the 4th Annual Homeless World Cup.
Some 500 homeless soccer players represent the national teams of 48 nations in the tournament. Knocked down by life, the players hail from such disparate parts of the world as war torn Afghanistan, the slums of Kenya, the drug rehab clinics of Dublin, Ireland, the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, the overflowing public shelters of Madrid, Spain, and the unforgiving city of St. Petersburg, Russia, where the homeless have no rights or identity. Despite their homelessness, the players wear the colors of their country with pride. From shattering misconceptions about the homeless to seeing people living at the edge of society, discovering that they can also be winners, the film powerfully shows that sports can and does change lives.