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World TV Premiere of 'The Rugby Player' shows the legacy of 9/11 hero Mark Bingham

ZW0005A001S00 460The world television premier of a critically acclaimed, multi-award winning documentary, featuring Australians, will shine light on the misconceptions about gay people that often underpin homophobia in sports.
With significant public interest in the topic, a recent study found homophobia is rampant in Australian sports. The documentary airs just days before Australia hosts players from around the world attending the Bingham Cup, the world cup of gay rugby, which is named in Mark Bingham’s honour.  


“The Rugby Player,” (8:30pm, 20 Aug, ABC2) is an uplifting, insightful and stereotype-shattering exploration of the life of Mark Bingham, an inspiring, proud gay rugby player and September 11 hero of United Flight 93, and his remarkable mother, Alice Hoagland. By weaving together Mark and Alice's stories, The Rugby Player creates an intimate portrait of how a son’s heroism can inspire people around the world, and how a mother’s love can turn profound loss into unshakable resolve. The documentary also features players from The Sydney Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby union team and hosts of the Bingham Cup.


“It’s incredibly heartbreaking to watch this film, but at the same time I’m so proud that Mark’s life story challenges any notion that gay men are somehow weaker or morally unprepared to face a difficult physical task,” says his mother, Alice Hoagland, who will be attending the Bingham Cup and staying with Mark’s Australian best friend, who also appears in the film.


Mark, an aspiring young filmmaker, used his video camera as a form of personal expression, teenage rebellion, and as a diary capturing daring, hilarious and intimate moments of his life with his wide circle of family and friends. Mark left behind hundreds of hours of video documenting the final decade and a half of his life, from his teenage years until weeks before he died. This personal archive allowed the program’s makers to weave remarkably personal images captured by Mark’s own lens into the fabric of the documentary.


The Rugby Player shows Mark developing from a gawky teenager into a self-assured leader, demonstrating a fearlessness and disregard for danger that often amazed his family and friends. A rugby player in high school and in University, he later was one of the founding players on the world’s first gay rugby teams, the San Francisco Fog. Mark applied the knowledge and character he acquired from the sport to challenges in his life, including the difficult process of coming out as a gay man to his family and friends in his early 20s. The film gives the viewer a unique, real-life insight into the challenges faced by gay athletes in accepting their own sexuality.


Mark’s mother, Alice Hoagland, along with Mark’s high school and college friends, former partners, family members reminisce about Mark throughout the program, tracing their interactions with him up until the day he boarded United Flight 93 on September 11. With wrenching clarity, loved ones recall the last moments they saw or spoke with him. Alice heartbreakingly recounts the phone call she received from Mark from aboard the hijacked plane, their final conversation and her last desperate advice to him. Cockpit voice recordings, heard by Alice, capture Mark’s voice in a group of men wrestling control of the plane from terrorists; it crashed in a field before reaching its target, believed to be in Washington.

The Rugby Player also follows Alice’s journey to rebuild her life in the aftermath of 9/11. Devastated by her loss but inspired by the memory of her son, Alice, who is a former United Airlines flight attendant, becomes a nationally respected speaker (such as appearances on Larry King) and researcher on the issues of aviation security, petitioning the federal government and the airlines to commit to ever higher safety standards. Alice also becomes and remains a strong advocate for LGBT rights, including the right of same-sex couples to marry.


ABC2 will screen the TV Premiere of The Rugby Player on Wednesday, August 20 at 8.30pm, also available on iview. Directed by Scott Gracheff. Produced by Holly Million, Scott Gracheff and Chris Million.
Last modified onMonday, 18 August 2014 13:12
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