Claressa & Us


One of the best stories – maybe the best – to emerge from Flint in recent years has been that of “T-Rex” – aka Claressa Shields, the tenacious teen who rose from Vehicle City obscurity to become a pioneering Olympic boxing champion.

The life of the athlete known by that endearing, prehistoric nickname is wonderfully captured in T-Rex, a documentary that has won awards at numerous film festivals in recent months. Its debut in Shields’ hometown came last August at the Flint Institute of Arts, where it packed the 340-seat theater for two screenings attended by the film’s directors, producer and subject.

If you missed T-Rex the first time around, never fear: The FIA is bringing it back for showings January 22-24, just as Shields readies to return to the spotlight in an attempt to repeat her 2012 London Summer Games gold-medal triumph in next August’s competition in Rio de Janeiro.

Shields is all of 20 years old now, but as the film shows, she was in her mid-teens when she became the first American female to win an Olympic boxing medal (the 2012 Games was the first in which female boxers competed). Not unsurprisingly, the journey toward that accomplishment is as interesting as the outcome: The central relationship is between Shields and her coach, Jason Crutchfield, who pushes her – not without resistance – toward her goal.

Crutchfield, who has been training Shields since she was a gawky 11-year-old hanging around his gym, comes to see her as his best chance to groom a champion; Claressa, while balancing school work, boxing and boys, eyes a way for her and her family to escape from the streets.

Directors Drea Cooper and Zakary Canepari shot more than 400 hours of footage after beginning T-Rex in 2010. “I’m an outsider, but for Flint, Claressa’s a hero – as she should be,” Canepari told The Flint Journal at the FIA premiere last summer. “She overcame a lot, and … people will get so much from her story.”

Also on the FIA’s Friends of Modern Art film series schedule for January are a drama from Germany, an American-made psychological biography and a Hollywood indie romantic comedy.

Slated for January 8-10, the German Labyrinth of Lies has been a success at multiple European film festivals. A fact-based drama, it explores complex moral issues in the story of a principled young prosecutor who investigates lingering Nazi influences in post-World War II Germany.

Coming January 15-17 is Experimenter, praised by New York Magazine as “playfully dead-serious … uncannily beautiful.” Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder star in a bio of social psychologist Stanley Milgrim, who shocked the world with his 1960s experiments on humans and authority.

Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live) and Alison Brie (Community) star in the January 29-31 offering, Sleeping With Other People, about a good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater who bond after meeting in a sex-addicts support group. Entertainment Weekly calls this “brittle, bawdy, frequently funny.”

An additional January screening is The Bicycle, a stand-out family drama to be shown January 14 as part of a monthly series of films about African American issues and culture presented in collaboration with Communities First, Inc. In the film, a little girl’s bike is stolen, and her mother’s fiancé must intercede to help – and repair his difficult relationship with the girl.

Information on all screenings at the FIA is available at or 810.234.1695.


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