Go ahead and scan ahead on your DVR’s and hit the record button, it’s that time of year again where ESPN Films brings the people another series of documentary films for us to enjoy again and again and again. Following the spirit of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, ESPN Films and espnW have partnered together to produce nine new films that focus on captivating stories of women in sports told through the lens of female filmmakers. The series itself will be called “Nine for IX,” and the executive producers are legendary media member Robin Roberts and Jane Rosenthal.
Here is the listing of films that will air beginning on July 2:
- Venus Vs. (Ava DuVernay): A profile on Venus Williams that documents her fight for equal pay in Europe challenging the long-held practice of paying women tennis players less money than their male counterparts at the French Open and Wimbledon. Following in the footsteps of Billie Jean King, Williams took her fight all across Europe and in 2007 was able to be paid just as much as Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
- Pat XO (Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern / Produced by Robin Roberts): A documentary on legendary Tennessee head coach Pat Summit and her fight with Alzheimer’s. With Pat’s son Tyler as the narrator and former players like Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Michelle Marciniak sharing their story, the film will aim to show fans the true love many have for Pat Summitt.
- The Diplomat (Jennifer Arnold and Senain Kheshgi): The story of Katarina Witt, a.k.a. “the most beautiful face of socialism,” is an interesting tale of one of East Germany’s most famous athletes. Witt, who won back-to-back gold medals in figure skating, had to deal with socialism as a superstar and was there for the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- Runner (Shola Lynch): Mary Decker is arguably the greatest female distance runner of all-time, as she holds the U.S. records in every distance from 800 to 10,000 meters. However, America’s best runner was never able to perform on the Olympic stage, in a span that crosses 12 years in time.
- No Limits (Alison Ellwood): Audrey Mestre was a world record-setting freediver who held the female world record by free diving to a depth of 410 feet on a single breath of air. A year later she broke her own record, by descending to 427 feet. Mestre’s record was soon broken, and she prepared to try and break the new record with the support of her husband Pipia. But things didn’t go according to plan, and Mestre’s freedive attempt would be her last one.
- Branded (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady): The legend of Anna Kournikova was built primarily on the theory that sex indeed does sell. For a player that was never ranked higher than No. 8 on the WTA world singles rankings, Kournikova was as much of a top earner as her contemporaries like Martina Hingis and Steffi Graf. “Branded” explores the double standard placed on women athletes to be the best players on the field and the sexiest off them.
- Let Them Wear Towels (Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern): In 1990, Boston Herald‘s Lisa Olson was working the beat for the New England Patriots in the locker room when a couple of Patriots players exposed their private parts and said salacious things towards the reporter. Things became so bad for Olson, as the players and fans both harassed her to no end, she eventually moved to Australia to stay in journalism. In “Let Them Wear Towels,” the film serves as profile on females working in the man’s world of the locker room.
- Swoopes (Hannah Storm): Sheryl Swoopes was the first female basketball superstar that I can honestly remember, from the days of Texas Tech to being the first female hooper to get a shoe deal. Of course, many forget that she also was pregnant and gave birth during her first WNBA title and also was one of the highest profile athletes to come out the closet and announce she was gay. This film profiles her ups and downs, and even at age 40 the former Red Raider can still fill it up in the WNBA.
- The ’99ers (Erin Leyden / Produced by Julie Foudy): Women’s soccer officially was put on the map in the United States in 1999 in the Rose Bowl as the U.S. Women’s National Team put together a magical run to win the Women’s World Cup. This film, produced by team member Julie Foudy, gives fans unprecedented access to behind-the-scenes footage shot by the players themselves during the World Cup to show how a group of women changed the course of women’s athletics forever.
The series is scheduled to premiere on July 2 on ESPN, and the films will air over consecutive Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. ET. You can also check out a cool piece from Robin Roberts on why “Nine for IX” matters over at espnW.