‘A Most Beautiful Thing’ Documentary Honors the Chicago Story of the First U.S. African American High School Rowing Team, Premieres on Xfinity July 31st

‘A Most Beautiful Thing’ Documentary Honors the Chicago Story of the First U.S. African American High School Rowing Team, Premieres on Xfinity July 31st
A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Clayton Hauck. Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films. Manley HS Team with oars on location in Chicago.

The much anticipated documentary feature A Most Beautiful Thing, chronicles the life of five courageous teenagers who grew up on the West Side of Chicago and earned a place in sports history.   The film details the story of Arshay Cooper, Ray (Pookie) Hawkins, Preston Grandberry, Malcolm Hawkins and Alvin Ross from their teenage years at Manley High School, as they persevered through adversity and gang violence in one of Chicago’s underserved communities.

TRAILER:  A Most Beautiful Thing, premieres on Xfinity on Demand, July 31st and on Peacock, September 1st.

“Brothers encouraging brothers. That needs to spread like wildfire throughout our communities." - A Most Beautiful Thing documentary feature. Photo © 1999 Marc Mandel Coutesy of 50 Eggs Films. The Manley HS rowing team in front of a boathouse.

“Brothers encouraging brothers. That needs to spread like wildfire throughout our communities.”A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 1999 Marc Mandel Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films. The Manley HS rowing team in front of a boathouse.

In 1996, these young men bonded a friendship after a chance meeting at Manley High School to participate in a rowing program that was the first of its kind at the school.   Their dedication and achievement in a water racing sport not often exposed to the African American culture, helped them excel to become the nations first African American High School rowing team.

© 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films

“Malcolm’s doing this to show his son another way, Preston is going back into time to undo his mistakes, Alvin’s racing for the fact that he’s still alive, that’ he’s still here.”- A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films. Manley HS rowing team on the water in Oakland.

“When we were on the water, we were in a place where we couldn’t hear the sound of sirens or bullets, and that allowed us to shape a different vision for ourselves, of who and what we could become,” describes Arshay, the captain of the rowing team. “And that was a beautiful thing.”

"I was immediately captivated. Arshay's writing evoked the emotional angst of teens growing up in the inner city of Chicago. It is a triumphant tale of overcoming odds, with the sport of rowing" - Ron Stallworth. - A Most Beautiful Thing feature film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films. Arshay Cooper and Teammates with Mike Teti on location in Oakland.

“I was immediately captivated. Arshay’s writing evoked the emotional angst of teens growing up in the inner city of Chicago. It is a triumphant tale of overcoming odds, with the sport of rowing.” – Ron Stallworth.  A Most Beautiful Thing feature film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films. Arshay Cooper and Teammates with Mike Teti on location in Oakland.

Living in a poverty stricken neighborhood and some being in rival street gangs, what brought Arshay and his teammates together was their interest in a rowing boat, staged in the middle of the school’s lunch hall, that led them to register for Manley’s first after-school rowing program.  “As the first Black high school rowing team, we thought we were going to change the sport, just like Jackie Robinson changed baseball, but instead, the sport changed us,” explains Arshay. “Rowing gave us a purpose and gave us each other.  It saved my life.”

“To see Manley High School break out among the other big high schools in the area, I’m delighted that (the film) came from Manley. “I'm excited, seriously excited about the film” - Congressman Danny Davis. A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films.

“To see Manley High School break out among the other big high schools in the area, I’m delighted that (the film) came from Manley. “I’m excited, seriously excited about the film” – Congressman Danny DavisA Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films. Malcolm Hawkins on the ergometer with Teammates in Oakland.

Now in his mid 30’s, Arshay is the author of his award winning self published memoir A Most Beautiful Thing, of which inspired one of the most important documentary films of this decade.  Directed by award winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio, an Olympic rower herself,  Mary took notice when Arshay reached out to her through Twitter to introduce his new book.  “I am, like most rowers, passionate about the sport, and immediately ordered it,”  says Mary.  “I was excited about a story I had never heard of, and a team I could not believe existed.  Rowers, on the West Side of Chicago? How did I not know this?

“PTSD, It's not just a mental crisis, its a health crisis. I thank God to have a way to escape to the water and meditate. “It was something about the water, that gave us peace, and we all needed that.” Photo © 2019 Clayton Hauck. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films.

“PTSD. It’s not just a mental crisis, its a health crisis. I thank God to have a way to escape to the water and meditate. It was something about the water that gave us peace, and we all needed that.” – A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Clayton Hauck. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films. Arshay Cooper grabbing a set of oars in Chicago.

Mary explains that as a community “we rowers are all grit, all guts, all grind. No glory. No one in a boat is the star because you are only as fast as the weakest link.” When Arshay’s book arrived, Mary says it was mesmerizing. “His story was inspiring, devastating, funny, sad and hopeful, all in a single read.”

"All of Mazzio’s films are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things – defying expectations and challenging assumptions of who and what they can achieve."- A Most Beautiful Thing documentary feature. Photo © 2019 Clayton Hauck. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films.

“All of Mazzio’s films are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, defying expectations and challenging assumptions of who and what they can achieve.”A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Clayton Hauck. Courtesy 50 Eggs Films. Mary Mazzio and DP Joe Grasso on location in Chicago.

Mary thought it was extraordinary that Arshay as a teenager, whose mother was struggling with generational trauma and addiction, and the brother of gang members, found something special about the sport of rowing that changed his life.  She says “the racing distance is 2000 meters, somewhere between 5-7 minutes, and the amount of training to prepare for a race, that starts with a sprint, settles to a near sprint, and ends with a final sprint, is grueling.”

"I talked to the guys and we all want to do this, but for different reasons. I think its important to show young African American boys and girls the that there is another way out." - A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films. Alvin Ross grimaces on the ergometer in Oakland.

“I talked to the guys and we all want to do this, but for different reasons. I think it’s important to show young African American boys and girls that there is another way out.”A Most Beautiful Thing documentary film. Photo © 2019 Richard Schultz. Courtesy of 50 Eggs Films. Alvin Ross grimaces on the ergometer in Oakland.

A Most Beautiful Thing examines the lives of Arshay, Pookie, Preston, Malcolm and Alvin on how they protected themselves from a life of crime during their high school years.  From growing up as teens to becoming fathers, family men and entrepreneurs,  the film depicts many victorious moments.

After 20 years away from rowing, they all decided to race once again, this time for their sons and community, and to pay homage to one of their first rowing coaches.   NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill,  one of the executive producers of the film, says that was the moment that touched his heart.  “With the recent events that have transpired, it is even more meaningful to be part of a project which shows young Black men, in a positive, human, and hopeful way,” says Hill. “The protagonist of the film, Arshay Cooper, is a leader of his generation and his name will be one that soon everyone will know.”

A Most Beautiful Thing documentary feature is based on Arshay Cooper’s award winning self published memoir A Most Beautiful Thing and directed by award-winning filmmaker and Olympic rower, Mary Mazzio.  The film is narrated by Grammy and Oscar-winning artist Common, executive produced by NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade, and Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder, and features original music by femdot., Reuben Vincent, King Draft and Swank; Ian Kelly, GQ, and other hip-hop artists, with beats by Khrysis, E.Jones, Kash, and the The Soul Council.

A Most Beautiful Thing premieres on Xfinity on Demand starting July 31st and on Peacock, NBC’s new steaming platform, starting September 1st.  Arshay Cooper’s memoir, A Most Beautiful Thing is published by Flatiron Books. For updates visit www.AMostBeautifulThing.com.

About the Author:  Don Howze is an Emmy Award Winning Film/Tape Editor and Associate Professor of Journalism and Television Production.  Don is the producer and director of the upcoming film documentary The Production Crew, funded in part by The Field Foundation of Illinois.  imdb.me/dondvideo.

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    Can you please get me an interview with these guys and possibly the filmmaker? I loved this movie. If you scroll down my FB feed when I first saw it, I was hooked. It was beautiful. I am from Harvey, IL, I was born in the Robert Taylor homes. I got family all over the West and Southside of Chi, this movie gives hope. We do make it out. We do reach back and push forward. We fall down but we do get back up. Hope is the ceiling we have to cling on to on bust through when we come up in these areas. Well done! I just need an interview! Love it! mylifechats.com - blessedpenink.com

  • In reply to Meochia:

    Here you go Meochia, Production Company and Director info:
    Contact and Mailing Address:

    A MostBeautifulThing.com

    50 EGGS, Inc.
    231 Forest Street
    Woodland Hill – Building 4
    Babson Park, MA 02457
    Email:

    office@50eggs.com
    Phone:

    781.239.7000

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