“More Resonant Now Than Ever”

A Most Beautiful Thing, a film chronicling the first African American high school rowing team in America set for release July 10.

2 minute read
Published 05.06.20

Originally headed to debut at SXSW film festival, the much-anticipated documentary feature, A Most Beautiful Thing, narrated by Grammy and Oscar-winning artist Common, executive produced by NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade, Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder, and directed by award-winning filmmaker and Olympic rower, Mary Mazzio, opens in select cities on July 10.

The film chronicles the first African American high school rowing team in the nation (made up of young men from the West Side of Chicago, many of whom were from rival gangs, all coming together to row in the same boat.) Based on Arshay Cooper’s self-published memoir (to be republished by Flatiron on June 30 under the title, A Most Beautiful Thing).

The film takes a deep dive into the backstories of these young men, examining the issues of intergenerational trauma and violence. As the team’s captain, Arshay Cooper, reflected, “When we were on the water, we were in a place where we couldn’t hear the sound of sirens or bullets, and that allowed us to shape a different vision for ourselves, of who and what we could become. And that was a beautiful thing.”

In the wake of the death of a coach, these young men decided to come together again, after 20 years out of the boat, to race once more. For their sons and for their community. And in an extraordinary turn of events, Arshay invited members of the Chicago Police Department to join their reunion team. What then happened was unexpected for all involved. The release of this project, which highlights the talent and work ethic of young people from places like the West Side of Chicago, cast in sharp relief against lack of access and opportunity, as well as the events of the past month, is now more resonant than ever.

“Every day, Americans of colour face a long list of challenges and oppression, a list too long and too painful to recite here,” said Executive Producer Grant Hill. “With the recent events that have transpired, it is even more meaningful to be a part of a project which shows young black men, in a positive, human, and hopeful way. The protagonist of the film, Arshay Cooper, and his extension of an olive branch to members of the Chicago Police Department, moved me in deep and profound ways. He is a leader of his generation and his name will be one that soon everyone will know.”