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Grade: A

Venus Vs.  (ESPN Films)

The Elder Williams sister proves that she is an icon on and off center court

Film Review by African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)

Everyone knows about the Williams Sisters and their rise out of south-central LA to become supreme goddesses of the tennis world. Although the recently released documentary “Venus and Serena” celebrated the majestic sustainability of their long running sister act, the upcoming ESPN documentary delves into an equally important crusade that was shepherd by the older Williams, solo. This largely unknown episode in tennis history is given its rightful attention in the upcoming documentary tennis simply titled “Venus Vs,” which airs on July 2nd. Directed by Ava Duvernay, this doc is the first from ESPN’s “Nine for Nine” series.

A straight forward visual thesis on how Venus Williams effectively lobbied the old school tennis establishment to finally ante up in paying women equally, “Venus Vs.” will grab your attention from its first frame as Duvernay  very aptly presents the film’s central narrative and moves the story forward in a succinct and entertaining way.

Featuring excellent archival footage and thoughtful insights from tennis legends Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Ms. Venus Williams herself, the film does a great job of setting the uncompromising mood surrounding the issue that began following King’s bewilderment and angst regarding equal pay for herself and other women in her sport. Although her efforts were unsuccessful, the formidable (and often controversial cause) was taken up generations later by Venus who used her  very formidable  influence as a top player to push it pass the finish line. This landmark change not only earned female tennis players the right to equal pay, but also chipped away at gender bias in other areas of society.

Duvernay should be applauded for crafting a serious dialogue on gender equality in a way that will have appeal to the masses.

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