Film Review: Citizen Ashe

Arthur Ashe with the Wimbledon trophy

The sport of tennis has always been popular, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that it became the huge money-spinning business it is today. That was largely down to the characters who dominated the game during that period, such as Björn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. In many ways, it was a time of transition from the gentlemen amateurs to a new era of professional sportsmen. One man manged to straddle both periods.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Ashe was an unlikely tennis star, but went on to become the first black man to win Wimbledon. He had a temperament and outlook that made him popular with the tennis establishment, but as he approached the end of his career he became more and more involved in the Civil Rights movement. Eventually, dedicating his time to the activism which would dominate the rest of his life. His story is captured in Citizen Ashe.

While the structure of Citizen Ashe is fairly standard for a sports documentary, it’s pieced together in a way which slowly reels you in as it progresses. Rex Miller and Sam Pollard’s film delves into the star’s off-court activities, illuminating a man who was quietly focussed on his game but became increasingly vocal about his beliefs towards the end of his career. Citizen Ashe is a fascinating portrait of a complex character.

Citizen Ashe is released in the UK on 10 December and available in the US now.

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