The Program

 

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I’ve shied away from showing anything to do with the doped up Texan but this film based on David Walsh’s dogged pursuit of the truth is worth a screening I reckon.

From Academy Award nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) and producers Working Title Films (The Theory Of Everything, Everest, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), comes the true story of the meteoric rise and fall of one of the most celebrated and controversial men in recent history; Lance Armstrong,. The world needs heroes and Lance Armstrong was the ultimate sporting hero. Following a gruelling battle with cancer, Lance returned to his cycling career in 1999 more determined than ever and with his sights set firmly on winning the Tour de France. With the help of the infamous Italian physician Michele Ferrari and team director Johan Bruyneel, he developed the most sophisticated doping program in the history of the sport. This program allowed Lance and his American teammates to dominate the world of cycling, winning the Tour an unprecedented seven times. However not everyone believed the fairytale…Sunday Times journalist, David Walsh, at first charmed by Lance’s charisma and talent, soon began to question whether the ‘world’s greatest athlete’ was ‘clean’. Walsh sought to unveil the truth, his ensuing battle with Armstrong risked his own career, ostracised him from the cycling community and cost his paper, The Sunday Times, hundreds of thousands in legal costs. But the indefatigable Walsh eventually uncovered the truth when a select few prepared to talk came forward, exposing one of the greatest deceptions of our time. Inspired by the award winning book ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ by David Walsh, and featuring a stellar cast including Ben Foster (Lone Survivor), Chris O’Dowd (Calvary), Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) and Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad), THE PROGRAM is a tense and suspenseful thriller.

Date: Monday 21 May at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost £6 in advance (tickets can be bought via the Eventbrite link and ticket price includes Eventbrite fee).

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Clean Spirit

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As the Tour de France kicks into gear our July film is the fabulous documentary Clean Spirit which provides an insider look at the Argos Shimano (now Sunweb) team at the 2013 tour which launched Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb into the public’s consciousness.  The film offers an insider look at what it’s like to be on a professional cycling team at the Tour right now following the highs and lows of the team throughout the three week race but, like A Sunday in Hell, you see much more than the race.  Much of being a professional cyclist involves hotel rooms, team meetings, meals and massage and Clean Spirit really gives you a feel of this life and the internal machinations of a pro cycling team.

The film however is much more that simply a behind the scenes look at a team.  As anyone with a passing interest in cycling will know it has had massive issues with doping.  The Argos-Shimano team was launched as a pro cycling team that strives to compete the right way – clean – and the film crew does not shy away in discussing doping with all members of the team and it provides a fascinating inside and raises all sorts of questions around what it means to be clean.  For example caffeine pills and supplements are legal and the doctor hands these out, although some riders refuse to take them.  There are awkward exchanges but it’s good to see the questions asked and the inner workings of a team shown and you as the viewer are left to make up your own mind.  One thing for certain is that you will have a new found respect for Kittel and Degenkolb.

The camaraderie amongst the team is brilliant to see, you share in the success and failure and one of the narratives within the documentary is how the team rally around Tom Veelers who crashes after tangling with Mark Cavendish (very prescient after just watching yesterdays stage and crash between Cavendish and Sagan).  It’s inspiring viewing and you cannot help but admire the dedication, commitment and sacrifice shown by the riders.  Clean Spirit is a great piece of documentary film making and let’s hope that it will last the test of time and that’s it a true reflection of clean racing and a cleaned up sport.  Only time will tell.

Date: Monday 17 July at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £7 in advance (tickets can be bought via the Eventbrite link opposite and ticket price includes Eventbrite fee)