Recent alum’s film, “For The Love of The Game,” explores challenges faced by queer athletes

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A still from"For the Love of the Game" courtesy of Annie Dolan.

For The Love of The Game,” directed by Occidental Media Arts & Culture (MAC) alum Annie Dolan ’22, is a finalist in the 2022 Fine Cut Festival of Films. “For The Love of The Game” was Dolan’s senior comprehensive project, surrounding the experiences of two queer college student athletes, Claire Olson (junior) and Xavi Campbell ’22, navigating their identities as student-athletes in women’s athletic programs. “For The Love of The Game” and other finalists will play Sept. 21 on KCET.

Dolan said her film’s initial concept came around the time of the Tokyo Olympic Games. According to Dolan, there was a lot of discourse at the time regarding transgender and gender nonconforming athletes in the media — questioning their rights to participate in the games instead of celebrating the diversity they bring to sports. She said the film shows what it is like to play a sport for the joy of it, amid all the backlash.

A still from “For the Love of the Game” courtesy of Annie Dolan.

“I don’t think people understood how actually little we talk about [queer folks in sports],” Dolan said. “While there’s so much discourse about it, it was all debate on whether they deserved to be there; it wasn’t about the value that their identity brings to the sport.”

Dolan said her film features two of her friends she went to Occidental with.

“I knew [Claire and Xavi’s] stories decently well,” Dolan said. “I was like, ‘These are people that I could see being able to sit in front of a camera and truly tell their stories and give a real insight into what they have to go through every day just to be on the field.'”

According to Olson, Dolan was one of the first people they met at Occidental and Dolan was a first-hand witness of their transition journey, from Olson’s name change to change of pronouns. Olson said the filming process with Dolan was extremely collaborative.

“I think she texted me every two weeks once we started filming [to ask], ‘So this is what I’m doing, how do you feel about this? Is this accurate?'” Olson said. “I talked about my relationship with my family in one of the interviews, and she [said to] me, ‘Hey, I want to make sure I’m not framing your family in a way that you don’t approve of or anything like that.'”

Dolan said that even though the film was her vision and project, there was a whole group of people who assisted her throughout her film’s production. Gabby Squitieri ’22 was the film’s cinematographer and she said the final product is moving, even though she had no firsthand knowledge about the topic of the film.

“Seeing the final project, anybody could watch [the film] and really feel connected to the two main people that were interviewed and followed throughout this film,” Squitieri said. “It was just so beautiful.”

Dolan said she hopes viewers take time and think about what her film communicates about the experiences of not only queer athletes, but anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+.

“I’m hoping that some of the lines kind of shake you up a little bit. I do want to change the way [people approach] their mindset about queer athletes,” Dolan said. “‘How can I change [their] thinking that will lead to a safer environment for others to share their stories and identities?’”

Olson said that there are many mental and physical struggles for them on the court and in everyday life.

“Being in a space that encourages certain behaviors that you don’t resonate with, I would hope that this film helps people see that disconnect,” Olson said.

According to Olson and Squitieri, Dolan’s final product came out beautifully, and the stories told were presented in an authentic, humbling way. Olson said Dolan had hours upon hours of raw footage from filming. Squitieri said the whole production process was about balancing time and communication between cast and crew members, and the documentary turned out to be a touching work that came out to be the best it could have been.

“As an outsider, I think it came out beautifully and [that] she executed everything flawlessly,” Squitieri said. “I think she would say she’s happy with the final project.”

Dolan said one of her MAC professors, Diana Keeler, told her the director of a film will never be able to stop working on it or making edits. Dolan said Keeler told her that at some point, she would need to put her film to rest and acknowledge how far she had come.

“I’ll always be proud of that final product. I feel like I was able to do [Claire and Xavi’s] stories justice,” Dolan said, “One day, maybe I’ll get a chance to expand on [them] in a bigger piece of work that can be longer than 10 minutes.”

Courtesy of Annie Dolan.

“For The Love of The Game” will premiere on KCET on Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. and on Link TV on Sept. 22 at 11 p.m.