In the 1930s, Jesse Owens is a young man who is the first in his family to go to college. Going to Ohio State to train under its track and field coach, Larry Snyder, the young African American athlete quickly impresses with his tremendous potential that suggests Olympic material. However, as Owens struggles both with the obligations of his life and the virulent racism against him, the question of whether America would compete at all at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is being debated vigorously. When the American envoy finds a compromise persuasive with the Third Reich to avert a boycott, Owens has his own moral struggle about going. Upon resolving that issue, Owens and his coach travel to Berlin to participate in a competition that would mark Owens as the greatest of America's Olympians even as the German film director, Leni Riefenstahl, locks horns with her country's Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels, to film the politically embarrassing fact for posterity. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
I think the script writers were confused. Either they don't know the difference between Cleveland, Ohio and Cleveland, Mississippi, or they don't care, which would be even worse.
There was no discrimination in public accommodations in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1930s. African Americans did not have to sit in the back of the bus. When the script called for Jessie Owens to sit in the back of a bus in Cleveland, Ohio, it was in complete disregard for the truth. I checked with my mother, who went to the same high school with Jessie Owens. She went everywhere on the bus or the street car. Everyone did. And they all sat together, black and white.
Another problem with the script was the blatant racism in the locker room at Ohio State University. The Buckeye football team was already integrated by the time Jessie Owens arrived. William "Big Bill" Bell was an All American for the Buckeyes, and played from 1929 to 1931. I guess there could have been some racists who gave Jessie Owens some grief in the locker room, but it certainly would not have been so institutionalized as depicted in the film.
As much as those blatant misportrayals bother me, the thing that bothered me most was when Jessie was agonizing over whether to go to Berlin, his wife told him that he was never much good at thinking, so he should not do it. How much more racially condescending could the script writer be?
What a shame that this movie that could have been a rich source for teaching a moral lesson instead was turned into a source of misinformation and condescension.
The movie had some good moments, so I give it 4 out of 10 stars. Do not accept it as a reflection of reality, as it is not.
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