By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (09-May) — The story of Sir Roger Bannister and his quest to become the first man to break four minutes for the mile has been told hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times over the last 60 years. Each step of his famed four-lap race at Iffley Road Track on the campus of Oxford University has been part of running lore for generations. Yet, the film “Bannister: Everest on the Track” brings Bannister’s story to life unlike any book or documentary film before, shedding light on a number of captivating storylines and themes surrounding the historic 3:59.4 win.
Yesterday, a preview screening of “Bannister: Everest on the Track” was shown by producers Tom Ratcliffe and Jeremy Mosher at The New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory here in Manhattan, home to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.
“Bannister: Everest on the Track” is a thrilling, awe-inspiring story that recounts Sir Roger Bannister’s life from childhood through May 6, 1954, the day he etched his name in history. However, this roughly 70-minute film dives deeper than the books and movies previously documenting Banister’s life and career. The film reveals what spurred Bannister to pursue athletics as a child and teenager, how he coped with the devastating effects of World War II on his native Great Britain, and how Bannister’s quest aligned with the national theme of renewal in the 1950’s.
Seamlessly blending Bannister’s progression through track with his nation’s recovering morale, producers Ratcliffe and Moser personify just how meaningful and symbolic Bannister’s record run was to a nation and sport.
Following the conclusion of World War II, Great Britain was bound and determined to re-establish itself as a respected and strong nation. Chronicling a dramatic period of national revival, the movie touches upon Britain’s uplifting year of 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II was coronated and Sir Edmund Hillary summited Mt. Everest as part of a British expedition.
Sir Roger Bannister took it upon himself to add to Great Britain’s new-found confidence, proving all of the nay-sayers wrong and breaking track’s most famed imaginary barrier: four laps in four minutes. After a disappointing performance at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Bannister was motivated by a burning desire, one that not only represented his passion for athletics but also his national pride.
With stunning cinematography and research, Ratcliffe and Moser show just how much Bannister’s performance on May 6, 1954, meant to a recovering country, while also emphasizing the impact his race and achievement had on the sport of athletics.
Throughout the course of the film, first-person interviews help paint a near perfect picture, making viewers feel as if they are part of the action. Bannister, friend and pacemaker Sir Chris Chataway, and former world record holder John Landy are interviewed, as are mile legends from the last 60 years.
Yet, the producers don’t just stop with the notable sporting figures. Instead, they go two steps further, speaking with historians, notable journalists (including best-selling author David Epstein), and a spectator who witnessed the epic race, among others. All of these voices help enhance the record run, bringing it full circle and presenting the audience with a complete picture of how special and dramatic Bannister’s race was at the time.
Yes, many track and field athletes and fans have knowledge of what happened the day Roger Bannister toed the starting line at Iffley Road Track. But, far fewer know the backstory that Ratcliffe and Mosher present in “Bannister: Everest on the Track.” The film accomplishes everything one could want in a documentary that chronicles one of sporting history’s most important events: a poignant story of determination and will, with a greater theme encompassing the time period and hopes of a nation.
“Bannister: Everest on the Track” is a film that will make you smile, laugh, and re-live history as if you are there, trackside at Iffley Road. All that is missing is the cinders under your feet.
NOTE: Distribution of the film is still under discussion –Ed.