Don’t expect explosions, alien invasions or steamy sex scenes in the movie Gold Balls. What you can expect is an examination of why we all love super senior tennis.
Gold Balls is a documentary featuring five super senior tennis players as they travel the country in pursuit of National Championship titles also known a Gold Balls. Created by producer-director Kate Dandel of Seattle, Washington, the movie is currently traveling the film festival circuit and playing at selected locations around the country.
The movie began filming four years ago and features Bob Sherman, winner of 128 Gold Balls; Ken Stuart who’s not sure of how many Gold Balls he’s won; John Powless, the current number one ranked 85s player by ITF; Ron Toni Dandel who lives in his van so he can travel to play in tournaments; Marcus Freeman the publisher of Black Tennis Magazine; and George McCabe who just completed one of the best runs of any 85 year old in the world.
“I’ve been intrigued by the questions at the heart of this film for quite a while,” says director Dandel. “What it takes to become a champion. The psychological legacy we carry from our parents. I’m also quite obsessed with the fields of mindset and happiness. When I learned of this interesting subculture in tennis, I felt like it was an uncharted body of water in which to troll for insights about all of my passions.”
“One thing your learn when you follow 80 year olds playing in tennis tournaments is that there are a lot more people with a lot more energy than you have,” says Dandel who’s age does not qualifier her for super senior tennis by more than a few years.
“The lifestyle that these players pursue really is something like a twenty-something indie rocker. They are on the road week after week traveling to these tournaments. They sleep in their van, in a parking lot. They stay at the cheap flophouse hotel. It’s really all about getting to the tournament and playing in the big game.”
Making any documentary is full of creative and financial challenges, especially for independents like Dandel. There’s the expense of the production itself and then, after the documentary is completed, the challenge of distributing your movie. This is almost always done without the support of any major movie company you can name. To that end Dandel has set up a web site (goldballs.com) to publicize the movie and offer interested groups a chance to see it. You can purchase your own DVD of the movie through the web site as well.
The movie, like its subject matter, is timeless, and as Dandel adds is much more about tennis.
“Gold Balls sounds like it’s just about the champions but it’s really about the agelessness of the human spirit.”