“The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous for the release of Mary Mazzio’s uplifting documentary about the nation’s first African American high school rowing team, which feels almost like a tonic for these troubled times… [it] powerfully demonstrates the healing potential of sports and the ways it can help bridge societal divides… A movie we could really use right now” – Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
“an amazing film… uplifting and inspirational and just plain cool.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
“It would be unfair to give you too many details of what is, simply put, a great movie…” – Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune. Please see here if you are unable to access the link: Chicago Tribune. (For more on the film from Rick: “Mary Mazzio is a great great filmmaker…” Listen to: WGN’s After Hours with Rick Kogan).
“The documentary, based on Cooper’s self-published memoir (he connected with Mazzio on Twitter after she’d read it), illustrates the differences that can be made through the efforts of a few and draws attention to the high levels of trauma experienced by residents in our poorest neighborhoods. Imagine the systemic changes that can be wrought if the will of the many is used to achieve them.” – Kevin Crust, The Los Angeles Times. Please see here if you are unable to access the link: The Los Angeles Times.
“Every now and then, a film comes along that touches my soul… Without being preaching, ‘A Most Beautiful Thing’ shows us a way forward.” – Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times
“The best documentaries lull you into thinking they’re taking you for a nice float on a lazy stream — then abruptly suck you into a chasm of Class 5 rapids that have you holding on for dear life. That’s the kind of ride we get in director Mary Mazzio’s new film…” – Bill Newcott, The Saturday Evening Post
“The Perfect Sports Movie for These Astounding Times…The film is about a great many things, but at the heart of it all, it’s a story of friendship and how that undeniable bond can help us all get through truly soul-crushing experiences. There’s a levity to “A Most Beautiful Thing.” It would be so easy to rely solely on a catharsis of emotions other than laughter but there is a real sense of positivity about a film that’s as refreshing as it is inspiring..” – Gabe Zaldivar, Sports Illustrated
Over a hip-hop beat, the rapper-turned-actor Common narrates “A Most Beautiful Thing” in an exhilarating, mythical tone. The men at the center of Mary Mazzio’s documentary deserve such treatment: In the 1990s, they formed the nation’s first all-Black high school rowing team while growing up in Chicago’s West Side, where gang violence was prevalent… These interviews are both funny and poignant, as the rowers discuss complex relationships with one another and with their white coaches, who helped turn the rowers’ lives around.’ – Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, The New York Times
Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com writes that A Most Beautiful Thing is one of the best documentaries which was set to premiere at SXSW (“the best of what never was”): “joyful and powerful… I adored the storytelling and compassion in Mazzio’s approach. Not everyone could have gotten these guys to open up the way they do in “A Most Beautiful Thing,” and that’s often an underrated element of documentary filmmaking. Common may do the narrating but Mazzio lets the people like the unforgettable Arshay give the film its momentum…” – Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com. (In a second, updated film review timed with the film’s release, Tallerico writes: “The documentary feels like an elegy for communities that have been divided by disease and violence. And yet its humanity and optimism remain powerful…Mazzio understands how to give people space to express their joy and fear in equal measure, and her honest interest in Arshay Cooper and his best friends comes through in every frame.”)
“Mr. Cooper still rows with his old Manley Crew teammates; they practice separately in the cities where they live and periodically meet up. Mr. Cooper told Ms. Mazzio that his teammate Alvin Ross was excited to reunite with the team ‘to celebrate the fact that we survived the West Side, that we’re still alive.'” – Alexandra Wolfe, The Wall Street Journal. Please see here if you are unable to access the link: The Wall Street Journal.
“I hurt for them, I cried, but ultimately I cheered. This film, this journey is so important. It’s the heart of Black folks we seldom get to see.” – Sherin Nicole, Idobi
“It might start and seem like a story about rowing but it’s really about that thing we all require at one time or another: resilience. The resilience to go against peer pressure and jeering, to not be weighted down by unimaginable tragedies, to reach out to build bridges to a better tomorrow, and to never give up. Any film that can make you feel this deserves many viewings and Mary Mazzio’s A Most Beautiful Thing is the best example of one that I can remember in a very long time.” – Jeremy Goeckner, NPR . (For more on the film from Jeremy, listen to The Front Row Network).
“Absolutely A Must Watch… I dare you not to cry.” – Chris Baud, Deadspin
“How the incredible story of the first all-Black high school rowing team made it to the big screen… Mazzio says she hopes her film will help relieve people from neighborhoods like the West Side of stereotypes thrust upon them, and lead viewers to learn that the only thing often separating people is the circumstances of birth and skin color…” – Rachel DeSantis, People
“One of the most important documentary films of this decade…” – Don Howze, Chicago Now
“The film’s hopefulness, and the team’s heartening relationship with the officers, is particularly poignant in the wake of the police-related deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the nationwide protests that have followed.” – Timothy Bella, The Washington Post.
“In the 1990s, a group of high school boys from rival gangs in Chicago’s West Side broke barriers in the sport…” –Town&Country’s Chloe Foussianes profiles A Most Beautiful Thing
“Mazzio’s journey in creating the documentary ‘‘A Most Beautiful Thing,’’ narrated by Common and with Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade as executive producers, began with a ride around the old neighborhood. Cooper and Ross wanted to give the director a firsthand look at what life was like growing up on the West Side. As the three of them drove through the West Side, beginning at Cooper’s old house and making their way to Manley High School, Cooper and Ross were pointing out the different blocks that belonged to different gangs. “By the time we made it to Manley, I asked, ‘How did you get to school safely?’” Mazzio said. “And Arshay said, ‘That, my friend, is the point.’”- Annie Costabile, Chicago Sun-Times
Grant Hill and Arshay Cooper discuss A Most Beautiful Thing with Jenn White on NPR
“We wanted to recast the narrative… we did it for our community, our kids, for Josh…” – Arshay Cooper speaks with Emily Webb of the BBC.
Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition sat down with Arshay Cooper to learn more about A Most Beautiful Thing.
“Powerful… The positive outcomes and messages in this film are many — but when the men put the lessons they learned into action to move their own community forward, those lessons become outright inspiring.” – Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media. The film is also selected as a Common Sense Selection for Teens and Families.
“masterful… it’s this multiplicity of faces and voices that gives the film its tremendous strength… by digging deep, and revealing how rowing can be not only a mechanism for achievement and self-discovery, but also a means by which people of the most disparate backgrounds and viewpoints can come together and “rise,” Mazzio has created a most beautiful portrait of what our sport, at its finest, can mean.” – Oli Rosenbladt, Row2k
“With humor and heart, this group of strong men spread love and awareness. They strive to break the cycle of absent fathers and to give advice to the youth: ‘Keep working hard towards greatness.’ With an awesome soundtrack, narration by Common, produced by a slew of amazing backers like NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade, and directed by Olympic rower Mary Mazzio, A Most Beautiful Thing crosses the finish line, easily winning over the viewer.” – Liz Whittemore, Alliance of Women Film Journalists
Shondaland’s Valentina Valentini discusses A Most Beautiful Thing with Arshay Cooper and Director Mary Mazzio.
“Mazzio read Cooper’s first telling of his story and tweeted out her praise. Cooper didn’t know Mazzio and was unfamiliar with her past work, but through that tweet discovered her impressive slate of documentaries, many with an activist angle, including “I Am Jane Doe” and “Underwater Dreams.” He realized that a documentary might be the best fit for telling the Manley crew team’s story onscreen…” – Kristen Tauer, Women’s Wear Daily (please see here if you are unable to access the link: Women’s Wear Daily)
“A Miracle on the Water…one thing is certain; Mazzio’s film will be a must-see whenever it premieres…” – Bryan Abrams, The Credits
“A new documentary has brought together an acclaimed director, a pair of retired NBA All-Stars and two award-winning hip-hop artists to tell the story of the nation’s first Black high school rowing team.” – Chris Smith, Sports Business Journal
Chicago Magazine‘s Skyler Aikerson interviews Arshay Cooper ahead of A Most Beautiful Thing‘s release.
New York’s Fox 5 News spotlights A Most Beautiful Thing (featuring interviews between reporter Antwan Lewis and Executive Producer Grant Hill, Director Mary Mazzio, and Arshay Cooper).
Executive producer 9th Wonder sits down with DeArbea Walker of Deadspin to talk about his involvement with A Most Beautiful Thing and how he set about creating the hip-hop score.
“Mazzio explores just how traumatic it can be growing up in violent crime zones where gang life is the only way to survive. Experts interviewed float numbers of a 40 percent PTSD rate versus that of 25 percent for war veterans who see combat. The developmental challenges subsequently illuminated are sobering. “There’s so much extraordinary talent squandered,” Mazzio says. Still, at the heart of the film remains Cooper and his barrier-breaking teammates who catch plenty of crabs both on the water and in the streets. What pervades is the notion of team, perseverance and loyalty. Their journey against such stacked odds is truly a most beautiful thing..” – Tom Meek, Patriot Ledger
“Powerful” – Bonnie DeShong, Chicago Now
Sharon Chapman, Features Editor at The Austin American Statesmen, selected A Most Beautiful Thing as one of SXSW’s must-see films. The Root lists A Most Beautiful Thing as the number one most anticipated film at SXSW; BET features A Most Beautiful Thing ahead of SXSW Festival; and Atlanta Black Star highlights the involvement of Common, Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade, and 9th Wonder. The film was also covered by Shadow and Act and Black Enterprise.
Women in Hollywood‘s Meghan Gheron speaks with Mary Mazzio about A Most Beautiful Thing.The best piece of advice came from my mother: never take no for an answer. No means no for that one second, that minute, that day. But it does not mean no forever. And she was so right. Worst piece of advice? Don’t listen to your mother.
“’There are so many examples and so many inspiring stories that haven’t been told. Trusting [Mazzio] and her ability to tell the authentic story along with the story itself…I was hooked right away.’” Grant Hill talks about A Most Beautiful Thing with Evan Kolin, Duke Chronicle
A Most Beautiful Thing. “WATCH: Five Black History-Making Rowers Pull Together in ‘A Most Beautiful Thing’” – N. Jamiyla Chisholm, Colorlines
“A must watch doc.” – Alex Billington, FirstShowing.net
“important and wonderful.” – Andy Anderson, Rowing News
“the most healing, inspiring film of the year…” – Tim Appelo, AARP (five star review)
“the narrative takes a leap and unfolds in an unexpected way that just about took the top of my head off. I suddenly saw the much wider and perhaps limitless implications of such a program to break down class, racial, cultural, ethnic, and physical barriers, to bring the most unlikely folks together in order to float that boat over the finish line. By the end of the film, it’s impossible not to see rowing as a potent metaphor for how to move forward– in a boat, in a country, in a society that artificially segregates people. What Mazzio– who was on the Olympic rowing team in 1992– creates is a film that captures the effects of that transcendent change. I found myself tearing up, cheering them on, and wishing with my whole heart and soul that everyone could see and feel this film.” – Joyce Kulhawik, Joyce’s Choices
“Both in Hollywood and general society, people with jail records and/or addiction issues tend to be dehumanized. Not here… A Most Beautiful Thing paints people society tends to cast aside with admirable grace and the same can be said for how it shifts between differing tones. A Most Beautiful Thing’s ability to explore people as complex beings doesn’t mean it sacrifices entertainment when the time is right for such material… Connecting the disparate tonal elements of A Most Beautiful Thing is a unique manifestation of the idea of victory.” – Doug Laman, The Spool
“The Chicago-based documentary flips the script on the white savior story… inspirational… this is a film that every child in the city of Chicago needs to watch…” – Josh Flanders, Chicago Reader
“powerful… I give the book and the documentary, A Most Beautiful Thing 5 winks of the EYE!” – Bonnie DeShong, The Chicago Crusader
“Documentary extraordinaire” – JC Taylor of Creative Features sat down with Mary Mazzio to learn more about A Most Beautiful Thing.
“A Most Beautiful Thing (On Demand) is a documentary film whose timing could not be better as it chronicles the first African American high school rowing team in the country made up of men who were in some cases in rival gangs from the West Side of Chicago. To watch them overcome what they did and then reunite twenty years later is something to truly celebrate and it’s a film that should be watched by all.” – Kevin Williams, 92.7 WBOM
Row2k talks with Arshay Cooper to discuss both his memoir and the film, A Most Beautiful Thing. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Also, Rowing News features A Most Beautiful Thing, as does Row2k USRowing, Row2k, and Row360, and the US Olympian and Paralympian Newsletter.
Dante A. Ciampaglia of The Elective talks with Arshay Cooper about the book and film.
“the heartfelt sincerity of this crowd-pleasing documentary drives it to the finish line.” – Todd Jorgenson, Cinemalogue
“in the end, winning didn’t matter so much as making an impact.” – Joshua Ocampo , Men’s Health
Executive Producer, Chaz Ebert, on the film: RogerEbert.com
Deadline highlights A Most Beautiful Thing as a Documentary Spotlight at SXSW.
The Palm Beach Post talks with Arshay about how A Most Beautiful Thing can be used as a tool for social change.
From @jaiathomas “I’ve been watching #SXSW screeners today and “A Most Beautiful Thing” is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.”
“After watching this film, it wouldn’t surprise me—and I have a little bit of experience in this regard—it wouldn’t surprise me if you were nominated for an Academy Award… It’s that good in my opinion.” – Ron Stallworth, author of Black Klansman
“What a wonderful review [“This Old Crew Still Has the Right Stuff” by Kevin Crust, Aug. 4] of “A Most Beautiful Thing,” a movie whose theme is the hard bond which develops among men through hard work and common goals. The sport of four-man crew demands an individual give his all to better the team. Everyone must work in perfect unison to move the shell forward in a straight line. It is the ultimate team sport.” – David L. McDaniel in a published letter to the Los Angeles Times