Winner of the HBO© Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2013 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, THE RUGBY PLAYER, which explores the unique bond between Mark Bingham, one of the passengers of United Flight 93 on 9/11, and his mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant, makes its New York premiere at the 25th anniversary of NewFest, the NY LGBT Film Festival in partnership with Outfest on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 at 5 p.m. at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre. Within the shadow of a national tragedy, THE RUGBY PLAYER is an uplifting and stereotype-shattering documentary that tells the story of a mother, a son and what it takes to be a hero.
As an aspiring filmmaker growing up, Mark used his video camera as a form of personal expression, teenage rebellion, and as a diary capturing daring, hilarious and intimate moments of his life with his wide circle of family and friends. Mark left behind hundreds of hours of video documenting the final decade and a half of his life, from his teenage years until weeks before he died.
“These moments have allowed us to create a portrait of an individual that goes beyond the news headlines and sound bites and gets at the true heart of the human spirit,” said THE RUGBY PLAYER director Scott Gracheff. “In a very real way, Mark shot the film of his life and we’ve tried our best to tell that story as truthfully as possible.”
THE RUGBY PLAYER shows Mark developing from a gawky teenager into a self-assured leader, demonstrating a fearlessness and disregard for danger that often amazed his family and friends. A rugby player in high school, at the University of California, Berkeley and then with the San Francisco Fog, Mark applied the knowledge and character he acquired from the sport to challenges in his life, including coming out as a gay man to his family and friends in his early 20s. Mark’s legacy continues through The Bingham Cup, a biennial international gay rugby tournament started in 2002 and named in Mark’s honor. His story serves as an inspiration for gay athletes coming out even amongst prejudice, intolerance and homophobia, which should serve no place in organized sports.
Mark’s mother, Alice, along with Mark’s high school and college friends, former partners, family members, and his ‘gay parents’ reminisce about Mark throughout the film, tracing their interactions with him up until the day he boarded United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. With wrenching clarity, loved ones recall the last moments they saw or spoke with him. Alice heartbreakingly recounts the phone call she received from Mark from aboard the hijacked plane, their final conversation and her last desperate advice to him. Evidence from phone calls that Mark and fellow passengers made that day, as well as the recording made by Flight 93’s “black box” recorder suggests that a group of passengers, including Mark, heroically battled the hijackers for control of the plane. Thwarted by a lack of time and altitude, they lost their struggle for the cockpit controls, but spared Americans the sight of the Capitol Building- the presumed target of Flight 93- in ruins.
The film also follows Alice’s journey to rebuild her life in the aftermath of 9/11. Devastated by her loss but inspired by the memory of her son, Alice pours her efforts into becoming a nationally known writer, speaker and researcher on the issues of aviation security, petitioning the federal government and the airlines to commit to ever higher safety standards. Alice also advocates frequently in the national media for LGBT rights, including the right of same-sex couples to marry. By weaving together Mark and Alice’s stories, THE RUGBY PLAYER creates an intimate portrait of how a son’s heroism can inspire a nation, and how a mother’s love can turn unfathomable loss into unshakable resolve.
THE RUGBY PLAYER was 10 years in the making by a team of filmmakers including Director Scott Gracheff, Producer Holly Million and Director of Photography/Producer Chris Million. The team also includes Content Advisor Todd Sarner, Mark Bingham’s childhood friend who also appears in the film. The goal for the film is national broadcast. The filmmaking team is also planning an extensive national screening tour and robust community outreach campaign, and is seeking grants and corporate sponsorships to support this tour.
HBO© Audience Award for Best Documentary – Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2013
Audience Award for Best Documentary – Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2013
Celebration of Courage Award – Kansas City LGBT Film Festival 2013
“Honorable Mention” Audience Award category – Philadelphia QFest 2013
“As innocent, raw and powerful as the man it memorializes” – Roger Brigham – Edge Media