VENUS and SERENA documentary May 24

What you haven’t heard or seen about the top stars of tennis

One of my favorite picks from 56th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival

VENUS and SERENA, Venus makeupAn unrestricted view of siblings and tennis greats, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, makes its way into theaters May 24 from Magnolia Pictures.  What we’ve imagined, heardVENUS and SERENA, Serena makeup tidbits of, speculated and talked about for two decades is explained in this vivid account of two young women that the world has watched, cheered and sometimes jeered on their ascension to international acclaim.

The tender moments of their early childhood; recognition of their innate determination and intellectual capacity, their priceless esteem nurtured by both parents– allow us to see the essence of these phenomenal young ladies.  Their triumphs are equally matched with challenge, catastrophe and calamity yet their undeniable place in modern history is still unfolding.

VENUS and SERENA, the documentary (running 99 minutes) will make you love them more, if that’s possibleMutua Madrid Open - Day Four for some of their most ardent fans and; possibly up the ante for fellow athletes.  Moreover,

VENUS and SERENA will inspire those looking to follow in their footsteps.


Michelle Major (Director/ Producer)

Michelle Major has worked in television and film for more than 15 years. Michelle got her start on the Barbara Walters film verité documentary Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: But We Have to Live on Earth. Later, she became a member of the producing team for Peter Jennings critically acclaimed and groundbreaking documentary project The Century.  She was also one of the original producers to bring the ABC News show Lifetime Live to the Lifetime channel. Additionally, she contributed to ABCs World News Weekend, finding her niche producing features about race, religion and the urban experience.

Venus Williams on court in whiteIn 2003 Michelle began working with Diane Sawyer producing celebrity interviews as well as stories on hot-button issues across the nation and oversees.  At ABCs Good Morning America, she was part of an award winning team and was personally responsible for producing several shows dealing with national topics ranging from the 2008 Presidential election to Hurricane Katrina.  She also produced top profiles on international leaders and their nations such as; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), Felipe Calderon (Mexico), Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), Bashar al-Assad (Syria) and President Obama.

Michelle has a BA in Psychology and Film Studies from Columbia University.  She also holds a Masters in General Psychology from The New School for Social Research.  She is a proud native of Harlem, NY and currently lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn.

MAIKEN BAIRD (Director/ Producer)

Maiken Baird is an independent documentary filmmaker who specializes in international and political affairs. She produced Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, with Academy Award winning director and producer Alex Gibney. In 2011, Client 9 was nominated for best documentary feature by the Producers and the Directors Guild of America and was also nominated for three Emmy Awards.

Maiken co-produced Chicago 10, a documentary feature on the Chicago Seven and the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Chicago 10 was directed by Brett Morgan and produced by Graydon Carter.

Maiken began her documentary career at ABC News as a researcher for Peter Jennings News Specials. She went on to produce documentaries for New York Times Television and National Geographic on a wide range of topics including: Women of the Holy Kingdom on the lives of women in Saudi Arabia, Nuclear Nightmare: Understanding North Korea, TB: Time Bomb on Russia’s tuberculosis epidemic and The Smallpox Curse on the eradication of small pox. She produced A&Es Biography of the Millennium, on the 100 most influential people of the last one thousand years and associate produced Biographies of Joseph Stalin and Eva Peron. She segment produced MTVs True Life: Fatal Dose, on heroin abuse by affluent teens in Plano, Texas.

Prior to becoming a documentary filmmaker Maiken worked at the United Nations in New York, the European Union in Brussels and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. She obtained a Master’s degree in International Relations and Political Science from Stanford University in 1992 and a BA in Political Science from Columbia University in 1989. Maiken is trilingual in English, French and Danish and lives in London with her husband and three children.

More on 56th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival

The San Francisco Film Society wrapped its 56th San Francisco International Film Festival with 263 screenings of 158 films from 51

Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley

countries, which were attended by over 210 filmmakers and industry guests from over 21 countries around the globe. During its 15-day run, SFIFF56 showed 67 Narrative Features, 28 Documentary Features and a total of 63 short films.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke star in BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke star in BEFORE MIDNIGHT

This year the International awarded over $70,000 in prizes—one of the largest cash totals distributed by a U.S. film festival—to emerging and established filmmakers from ten countries around the world. Thanks to its unique programming choices and the always enthusiastic San Francisco Bay Area audiences, the International sold out 144 screenings this year. Of particular popularity were the many screenings and events featuring special guests such as Steven Soderbergh, Harrison Ford, Richard Linklater, Philip Kaufman, Julie Delpy, William Friedkin, David Gordon Green, Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig, Sarah Polley, Michael Cera and Kate Bosworth.

“This festival may be 56 years old, but it was my first, and I have been amazed and delighted with the enthusiasm and love of cinema demonstrated by our audiences,” said Ted Hope, SFFS executive director. “The Film Society’s programming team, led by our Director of Programming Rachel Rosen, assembled a fantastic program of films from around the globe. Combine them with Steven Soderbergh’s State Of Cinema address setting the stage for our innovative A2E (artist to entrepreneur) filmmaker training, a number of amazing Live & Onstage events, and our star-studded and incredibly moving Film Society Awards Night, as well as an incredible array of guests from across the planet, and no one can deny that SFIFF56 was a truly extraordinary event. San Francisco should be as extremely proud of hosting this festival as I am of our team that produced it.”

Award-Winning Films
This year, ten films were in juried competition for the 17th annual $15,000 New Directors Prize, given to a first-time filmmaker whose work exhibits a unique artistic sensibility. The jury, comprised of Charles Tonderai Mudede, Alicia Scherson and Betsy Sharkey, chose director Belmin Sölyemez’s Present Tense (Turkey). The film was chosen for “its intelligence, sensitivity, humor, honesty, humanism, great performances and its refusal to supply easy answers or neat solutions to the tough questions that confront a structure of feeling shaped by the powerful and also alienating forces of global capitalism, urban redevelopment and consumerist marketing.” Honorable Mentions were given to William Vega’s La Sirga (Colombia/France/Mexico) and Adrián Saba’s The Cleaner (Peru). For more information, visit

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