Movies about sports, athletes and inspirational stories therein have been a part of film history forever. Disney in particular is just great at giving us emotional heartstring tugging true stories about underdogs in sports. There have also been some fantastic documentaries about similar stories like Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings, and Pumping Iron. But I have may have just seen the best inspirational sports film I have ever seen, documentary or not.
T-Rex is the story of Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields, a young woman from Flint, Michigan who started training as a boxer as a scrawny 11-year-old hanging out at a local gym. Her coach, Jason Crutchfield had always wanted to train a champion but never dreamed it would have been a young girl. T-Rex chronicles Claressa’s training from the beginning through to the 2012 Olympics when Women’s Boxing was included for the very first time with Claressa fighting for a Gold Medal. Undefeated and incredibly confident and determined, Claressa deals with her training as well as her relationship with her coach and her strained relationships with her family. She sees her success as a way to take her family to a safer and better life and with an unflinching resolve faces every obstacle in her way.
T-Rex is a brilliant film on many levels for many reasons. First and foremost it is anchored by an incredibly charismatic and truly inspirational central figure in Claressa Shields. I was instantly taken with her and her story and found myself totally invested within the first 10 minutes of the film. Claressa’s passion for what she does, her love for her family who are loving but at times hard to deal with, her loyal relationship with her coach which is also tense and complicated at times, and her supernatural focus on achieving what she is setting out to do is beyond inspirational. She is an incredible athlete, a good hearted, compassionate and loyal human being, and a monument to the strength of the human spirit. Directors Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari beautifully capture Claressa’s life through an unapologetic lens that shows every up and down, every victory and loss and every emotional hurdle that Claressa has to overcome. Her journey is never polished or glamorized, it is shown for what it really is: hard work. And they show this with wonderful style and a talent for capturing the beauty of everyday life. I couldn’t possibly recommend T-Rex more; this is a film everyone should see not only to see this one person’s journey but also to take away something from Claressa that we can utilize to make the most out of our own lives.
Claressa will be returning to the Olympic boxing ring this summer at the Rio de Janeiro Games and T-Rex now available to rent or own on Vimeo on Demand. The film will make its cable debut August 2 on PBS as part of the Independent Lens screening series.