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Girls on film - Melbourne Cup winners and New York marathon runners

14 October 2019

Ride Like A Girl2

The Melbourne Cup is a 2 mile (3.2km) long race for three-year-old thoroughbreds and was first held in 1861. In 2015 it was won for the first time by a female jockey, Michelle Payne. Directed by Rachel Griffiths, Ride Like a Girl (above) tells Michelle’s story, taking the viewer on a feminised form of the classic hero’s journey: the realisation of a dream by one young woman standing in for the dreams of any young woman. The title also turns the disparaging phrase ‘ride like a girl’ on its head. After all, this young woman won The Cup.

Brittany Runs A Marathon

Following on in the realising-your-dream theme is this new film Brittany Runs a Marathon (above).

The now iconic New York City Marathon began in 1970. It’s run every year on the first Sunday in November and shuts down traffic in parts of the city as it winds from Staten Island through the five city boroughs before reaching the finish line in Central Park 26.2 miles (42km) later.

Says playwright and debut screen director Paul Downs Colaizzo: “It’s not every day that 50,000 dreams come true at the same time.”

It is one of those dreams that forms the basis for Paul’s first feature film: Brittany Runs a Marathon, loosely based on the experiences of a friend of the filmmaker.

“She had a way of making everything into a hilarious joke,” says Paul about the Brittany he has known since college. “But her life was also dysfunctional ― by our late 20s, she was neglecting her student loans and drinking on weeknights. Then she decided to make a change.”

Brittany began running, first for just a few blocks.

“I watched her realize she was capable of more than she thought,” the filmmaker recalls. “She began to shift what she expected from herself. I knew, as a writer, that a story like this needed to be told and it needed a big-screen.”

But this is no biopic in the vein of Rachel Griffith’s Ride Like a Girl.

Instead, Paul takes “a stock character — the ‘hot mess,’ the ‘fat sidekick’ — and turns the camera on her, asking, What’s her human story? What does she want? What does she struggle with? And how is her story everyone’s story?”

“Whip-smart”, “crowd-pleasing rom-com” and winner of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, Brittany can be seen in cinemas from October 31 and on Amazon Prime from November 15. Ride Like a Girl had its Australian cinema release in September.