A documentary about the tennis-playing Williams sisters that has drawn a lawsuit against the producers by the United States Tennis Association is now scheduled to be seen Aug. 23 on Showtime, according to this story on Deadline.com.
Although it’s almost two months away, the airdate could change if the USTA lawsuit succeeds in blocking the documentary, titled “Venus and Serena,” from being shown.
At least, that’s what it seems like to us, after we pieced together what’s been going on with this documentary the last few weeks. The documentary is, of course, about the Williams sisters — Venus Williams and her younger sister Serena Williams — who came out of the Compton section of Los Angeles and became two of the most phenomenal professional tennis players who ever lived — after being coached in their youth primarily by their father.
The family dynamic that produced these two champion sisters is a terrific topic for a documentary to examine, and this is a documentary we would definitely like to see.
But last month, the USTA reportedly sued filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major over the use of tournament footage that belongs to the USTA and can only be used with the USTA’s permission. According to several accounts of the suit, including this one in USA Today, the USTA is accusing the producers of using footage they didn’t have permission to use — including, reportedly, some footage of Serena Williams losing her temper at a line judge during the U.S. Open in 2009.
The USA Today story included a strong reaction to the suit from the filmmakers. “What is the USTA afraid of? We’re shocked by this shameful effort to interfere with telling the story of the two most iconic female athletes in American history — a film that they have supported and collaborated on for years,” the statement from the filmmakers said.
“The USTA’s bizarre efforts to erase history and also claim control of our own film footage as part of their censorship effort is particularly outrageous. In trying to censor this uplifting film about the Williams sisters’ remarkable accomplishments the USTA is simply making up conversations that never took place.”
The same USA Today story had a spokesman for the filmmakers accusing the USTA of filing its suit in mid-June in order to undermine a previously scheduled July 1 airdate for the film on Showtime. And indeed, the movie did not air that day (which would have been just this past Monday). Now the movie is scheduled for Aug. 23.