The Film Comment Podcast: Sam Pollard and Samantha N. Sheppard on Bill Russell: Legend
With an award-winning filmography that includes MLK/FBI (2020), Two Trains Runnin’ (2016), and several episodes of the epochal Civil Rights series Eyes on the Prize, documentarian Sam Pollard has constantly challenged and changed the way we read American history. His latest film, the two-part documentary Bill Russell: Legend, is a remarkably nuanced portrait of a complex figure who, as a record-breaking athlete and an active participant in the Civil Rights movement, stood at the intersections of sports, celebrity, and race in America.
FC co-deputy editor Clinton Krute invited Pollard on the podcast to discuss his new film with scholar Samantha N. Sheppard, whose 2020 book Sporting Blackness: Race, Embodiment, and Critical Muscle Memory on Screen is an expansive analysis of sports documentaries and representations of Blackness on screen. They discussed the intensive research process behind the film, how the genre of the sports documentary can be used to better understand and illuminate history, and the legacy and life of Russell, who passed away in July 2022.