The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

November 6, 2013

Dunnavant film on Bama, sports integration coming to Athens

“Three Days at Foster,” a documentary film about civil rights and Alabama sports directed, written and produced by Athens native Keith Dunnavant, is coming to Athens — one month after screening at a prestigious Hollywood film festival.

The film, which focuses on the pioneer athletes who shattered the color barrier at the University of Alabama, will be shown in the Athens State University ballroom at 7 p.m. Dec. 10. Tickets are limited and are available for $15 at the Center for Lifelong Learning on the Limestone County Courthouse Square, as well as ASU’s Office of University Advancement at 433 E. Pryor St. If tickets remain on the day of the screening, they will be available at the door, as long as they last.

“The response to the film has been very gratifying and humbling,” said Dunnavant, a best-selling sports author who lives in Atlanta. “It’s a story about a largely unknown group of athletes who deserve to be remembered as historic figures, and it’s also a story about the power of sports, especially Alabama football, to overcome the legacy of segregation.

“I’m happy that we can bring the film to my hometown, thanks to the good folks at Athens State.”

“Athens State is pleased to show this documentary that was developed by Keith Dunnavant, who is an Athens native and has written several influential books on the sports world,” said Rick Mould, the university’s vice president for University Advacement. “This is another outstanding work by Keith that deals with an event that changed Alabama’s history.”

“Three Days at Foster,” which has been featured in USA Today, ESPN radio and various other media outlets, premiered to a sold-out crowd at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival in August and has been named an official selection of the 2013 All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival, dedicated to showcasing the best independent filmmaking about sports and competition. It will screen Friday at the historic El Portal Theater in North Hollywood.

“Being chosen for such a significant festival is a great honor and a wonderful validation of the film,” Dunnavant said.

Using Foster Auditorium, the site of Wallace’s futile attempt to prevent the integration of the student body, as a symbol of change across five decades, “Three Days at Foster” weaves a powerful story about the collision of sports and culture. Barrier-shattering basketball stars Danny Treadwell and Wendell Hudson are featured prominently.

But the film focuses most intently on the efforts to integrate Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Alabama football program, which has been widely misunderstood and the subject of significant mythology.

“Three Days at Foster” breaks ground in several ways, including the largely unknown history concerning the five African-American students who walked onto the all-white Bama football team in the spring of 1967, when nearly the entire Southeastern Conference remained segregated. Three of those pioneers share their experiences for the first time, including Dock Rone, the first black player to suit up for the Crimson Tide.

The film also tackles the distortions concerning the 1970 Alabama-Southern California game at Legion Field, while providing an intimate and revealing portrait of Wilbur Jackson, the first African-American to sign a football scholarship with the Crimson Tide, who, in the words of Dunnavant, became “the generational bookend to Rosa Parks.”

Dunnavant has been planning the documentary for more than a decade, and started moving forward with the project in early 2012 by assembling his team: director of photography Jonathan W. Hickman and editor Joe Beamon. Part of the funding came from a successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2012.

“We all realized this was an important piece of history that needed to be told correctly … a story that was a lot bigger than any of us,” Dunnavant said.

For more information about the film or to purchase a DVD, visit http://threedaysatfoster.com.

 

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