Venus & Serena - Documentary @ TIFF
Today I had the privilege to see the Venus & Serena documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival. I truly had no idea what to expect, and here I am in awe. The documentary was filmed for 12 months during the 2011 tennis season - which was a very dramatic one for the Williams sisters - but also went back to show their history. Since the movie jumped back and forth a lot, so will this post… I apologize in advance.
Began with footage of the girls when they were young - Venus was 11 and Serena was 10 - and Richard coaching them in Compton, California. On their beat up tennis courts and how Richard would reach out to all the private tennis clubs to get their used balls.
Much of the controversy surrounding the movie was regarding how Richard is portrayed. I see where they are coming from, but it was the truth.
Richard says that before Venus and Serena were even born he knew he would make his kids champions. He lived a tough life and wanted his kids to have a better life, so it came off that he wanted them to be athletes/champions for the money. There was a story that showed Richard got bullied and actually had a hook that connect trains, get hit into his knee.
Richard then reached out to the Rick Macci Tennis Academy to get his girls known. Rick doesn’t usually fly out to see kids, they usually come to Florida, but he made an exception. He wasn’t impressed until Venus asked to go to the washroom… she walked on her hands, and cartwheeled to the washroom. He then believed in her. Rick Macci flew the girls down and put Richard on his payroll since he had to leave his job and they trained there for 3 years. Venus entered her first big tournament at 14 and got a huge deal from Reebok. Soon after Richard and the Williams left Rick Macci. Another part of the controversy could be that the Williams family gave little to no credit to Rick Macci.
When Venus was 14 she was doing a TV interview and told the reporter she was going to win. She was very confident, but the reporter kept pushing her. Richard then interrupted and mouthed off to the reporter saying she already said she was confident.
Sisters - Venus and Serena
The Williams sisters live together and share a house in Florida. There was a scene in their kitchen where Serena said she was getting married in November. And Venus was like, are you going to move out? ANd Serena is like, ok maybe I am not getting married in November, I didn’t think about that. (I don’t know if she was serious about getting married, I couldn’t tell).
During Fed Cup we saw how close and connected they are. Many would have thought it was weird, but while Venus was laying on a massage table, Serena managed to squeeze herself on and was laying on top of her.
When Venus was asked about her toughest match in a scene from when they were 11, Venus took a long pause and said it was against her sister… it was horrible…she lost 7-6.
When Serena won her first slam before Venus, it was a little disappointing for the older sister, but she was really happy for her. She said that Serena taught her how to win.
After a FO win, they showed clips of players bitchfacing Venus, Maria Sharapova being one of them. The audience in the theatre all laughed.
After Venus lost to Serena in the FO final, she went up to her box and asked for the camera so she could take photos of Serena on court.
Venus and Serena played each other on many ocassions, but the USO final between them is what changed broadcasting - the women’s final was moved from Saturday day to Saturday night and ratings were high. When Serena lost, Venus tells her she loves her alright at the net. Serena gets mad when she loses.
After Venus lost in 2011 Wimbledon she did Karaoke with Serena. Serena was on the massage table and venus was holding the mic for her. This was adorable.
There was talk during the documentary that Serena has youngest sister syndrome an that Venus treats Serena like a princess and does anything to make sure she is happy.
Venus also says she is extremely happy when Serena wins, even if its against her. They have the same last name, Williams. And jokes that maybe one day in the future they might forget or makes a mistakes, its still Williams.
The movie showed a lot of graphics and details about Serena’s injuries. The first was her foot - we remember her being in a cast for what felt like a year. They showed her changing the gauze and the cast. This injury led to her pulmonary aneurysms. Serena was told she had blood clots and she would have to take injections to thin her blood. One day after one of the injections there was an inflammation in her stomach. They even showed her in the ER at the hospital in her bed, the blood from her stomach, and a lot of graphics. Serena was really worried as was told by her family that they love her. After this, she had to wear a bag attached to her stomach that would drain out the blood. During this time, for two weeks she was on “house arrest”. She couldn’t leave home so one night she tried Karaoke. Suddenly she realized how much she loved it and in a way Karaoke turned into a form of rehab for her.
Serena’s Road to Recovery
Sascha thinks that Serena is doing too much and trying too hard to get back out there. Serena is just dying to play tennis, she misses it so much. Even plays sitting down while in a cast. When Serena got the ok on a phone call from her doctor, she started crying from happiness.
Serena made her way to Wimbledon and after she won her first round match, she was crying into her towel. She just wanted to take it all in and was thankful she could be there again. She then said she put too much pressure on herself for the Bartoli match, which she lost. She kept thinking that she would be ranked 200 if she lost and didn’t want that. After she lost she told a reporter who wondered if she was glad she lost as it saved womens tennis in a way, her reply “super happy I lost, go womens tennis” *eyeroll*. She ordered food and then she told Sascha to banana split. He stood there confused. He was like “banana split?”. She had to break it down for him. Be like a banana and split. Leave.
Serena tells her sister she is back in the Top 10 (when she is) and then her sister jokes, “how do you and Venus stay in the Top 10 when you don’t even play”.
Serena and the USO and Sascha
1999 US Open changed Serena’s life. She had signed a deal with Puma and went up the owner at the age of 16 saying if she won the US Open title, she would get a bonus. He said ok, one million or two million if you win. She said two million.
She remembers that it was a 2nd set and she told herself to just go for it. Ever since then, she has defined her motto and her career, told herself she has to just go for it. So she did, and she won the title at 17 and cashed in $2 million from Puma.
Richard says, “The only person who can beat Serena here, is Serena”.
Sascha believes the USO is special and as an American its really important. He feels its a very different atmosphere, like a ball game almost. And he believes Serena likes it, and more energy.
Serena tries some pole dancing at her hotel in NYC - says she likes to try different work outs. She doesn’t lift weights and says she doesn’t know why she has the muscles there, she doesn’t use them.
In 2011 USO Serena felt that she was practicing really badly, not moving her feet. However, they thought she played better in the matches. After the Vika match she won 61 76, she was mad at herself. In the gym while on the eliptical she was having an argument with Sascha. Said that she played bad, he disagreed. She then went on to say that she knows what she has to improve, but says he has to improve too. Says that when they hit, he hits right to her and doesn’t run. She says when he does run, he blasts a winner past her that Nadal couldn’t even get to. She feels that he isn’t preparing her for the girls that want to beat the f*** out of her. They don’t play patty cake. Overall she felt she didn’t practice or play well and that Sascha needs to improve. Sascha knows Serena has stress building all the time, can’t convine her otherwise. He feels he’s a guy and can take it. They then showed Serena bullying him by throwing the balls and making him fetch (laughter).
Another scene shows Serena calling Sascha an asshole. It turns out Sascha made a bad joke. He joked wondering when Ana Ivanovic was going to ask him to be his hitting partner. Serena was hurt and says its not because its another girl, and also says she would never go up to another guy to be her hitting partner.
In 2011 Sascha was surprised she lost, but also knew she was tire.d They hadn’t gotten to bed until 2.30am the night before, and the nights were catching up. She wasn’t moving as well. Serena felt that somedays you just can’t win. She was tired, but could have been more aggressive. She said she hoped to be back next year (2012).
Serena and the USO and Instances
We all know Serena has had a few moments at the USO. Foot fault and hindrance to name two. When she was 11 she said she wanted to be like McEnroe when she was upset on court. McEnroe said she outdid him this time. Chris Rock said that you can be good for 4 years, but after 12 years you are gonna call someone a b****. Bill Clinton also chimed in and said we should cut them a little slack. Serena responds to press conference saying “that was two years ago” rolls her eyes and also tells a reporter she does “out of sight, out of mind. you should try it sometime”.
In 2011 Serena was called for hindrance and felt point needed to be replayed. She called the umpire “unattractive on the inside”.
Serena felt there were a lot worse words she could have said. She said it was the most geekish thing anyone could say and if she was in highschool she would have wanted to beat herself up. “Uhhh what a nerd, couldn’t I have said something better. Ugh, loser”. McEnroe talked to Serena behind closed doors 3 days after and he told her she got screwed, but to apologize. Serene was tired of apologizing and jokes she is taking the “Malcom X approach” this time.
Serena and Her Multiple Personalities
Serena says she has multiple names and personalities for herself.
Serena - on court, winning, being bad ass.
Summer - she has a whole story. she was married, and then divorced. She moved to England and is used to write long letters.
(I don’t remember the name) - she is the fashion one, always thinking of designs, is on HSN.
Megan - she is mean, mischievous, you don’t want to run into her. (She whacked a friend in the head with a tether ball when explaining Megan).
Laquanda - rough, not Christian. She’s from the hood. 2009 USO. Oracene says that Laquanda got on the loose. UH OH!
Serena and Boys
They showed a party at Serena’s LA house. One of her ex boyfriends were there and they were chatty.
She tells Sascha he has big lips, like a black guy. That is why she likes black guys. She also says she only dates black guys. Sascha says thats not true, there is a white guy you dated a few feet from here, just over there, in the gym. And then one in Malibu. Serena laughs and says now she only dates black guys. She goes and sits on Sascha’s lap and leans towards his face and he leans back and says he is turning red. He then picks her up and twirls her around. The filmakers ask her if she would date Sascha. Her reaction was priceless. “OMG EWWWWW, I’d never date Sascha. Ewww. *uncontrolable laughter* Ewww. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way.”
She told a story about a bad date when she was younger… a guy came to pick her up in a mini van (she starts laughing). It had rims, tinted windows, decked out. She laughed and said she didn’t want to get in the mini van. And then joked and made the action, she should have twisted her ankle before getting in the mini van.
When Venus was 11 they asked her about a grandslam she could win. She said her ideal draw would be - 1st round wild card, 2nd round bye, 3rd and 4th round nobodies, and then win. And she laughed adorably.
The documentary touches on how artists are obsessive. Venus feels she is obsessive. Thinks perfections are nuts, but obsessive is ok - Serena is obsessive. Bounces the ball 5 times before 1st serve, and 2 times before 2nd serve.
Venus didn’t use to deal with loses very well. She used to not change her clothes, not use deodarant, and just sat on her couch for a week. Recently she realized she hates the depressing feeling, and now she must move on in an hour.
When asked about the kind of guy she wants to be with - Venus says she wants a guy with a body!!! And one who plays xbox, lets her sleep. Right now she just wants to play tennis all day, so no relationship. She started dancing a lot in happiness.
Venus felt very tired all the time and 2-3 hours before ther USO match she had no energy. Her disease feels like she is sick, but she actually doesn’t have the flu or cold. It is something she has to deal with and at USO she felt like she was going to give up. It had been bothering her for a long time and Oracene tells her to take the time and heal. Venus says she wants to play until she is 40.
Richard, Oracene, and the Williams family
Richard always coached the girls, but Venus would be on Richard’s court and Serena on Oracene’s. Richard thought Serena was crazy.
Family finds it hard to support one when they play each other. They can’t clap for Venus or Serena because they feel guilty.
Oracene was asked about grunting. She sarcastically told the reporter, “grunting hasn’t been a focus of our conversation”. When she leaves you can hear under her breathe… “God dam grunting. Stupid grunt.”
Oracene also looks after her grandchildren - the daughter and son of her daughter who shot to death.
Richard has a new wife - Lakeisha. Oracene says about Lakeisha/Richards marriage, “more power to her. I would run, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”
Serena is asked during USO if its ok to book a flight for Lakeisha for Palm Springs for the night because Richard forgot his medicine. Serena OK’s it, but rolls her eyes and says she’s going to be broke soon, and she ends up paying for everything.
Richard has a habit of saying “one”. This really gets on the nerve of Oracene. He says it in the players box, at practice, all the time. Serena also rolls her eyes about it and hates it. Apparently it means that they took their eyes off the ball.
Richard has had kids before, but never really told Venus and Serena about them. Once at pracitce a boy showed up on court and Serena didn’t know who it was. He kept calling Richard dad, and she thought to herself, “why is he calling him dad?!” She laughed and had no idea and said she was going to ask Richard who he was. Serena was asked to name her siblings and she just started laughing, saying she didn’t know and name many children with “R”. Basically said she doesn’t keep up with that side of the family.
One of her sisters was asked if they were half sisters. Her reply was, “we are black. we don’t do the half sister”. They are all very close.
At one point Richard gets really annoyed with the camera on him all the time. He says that is why he got rid of his first wife, too much for him.
Moving On and Random
The Williams sisters are getting older and after ups and downs, they know their body will talk to them. Venus said she wants to play until she is 40. It tells you Emotionally. However, Venus says they aren’t going to have a traditional career. They will keep playing, and even when they are too terrible for singles, they will play doubles.
Venus met Wyclef and he was to teach her guitar and she was to teach him tennis. He wrote a song about Venus. One day he was tipsy in a club in Miami and Serena went up to him and asked him, “where’s my song?!”. He made the soundtrack for the movie and Serena is mentioned.
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