A documentary about the man who broke the NHL color barrier is making the film festival rounds.
“Willie,” a film chronicling the life of Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, counts Washington Capitals owners Ted Leonsis, Sheila Johnson and Earl Stafford as executive producers.
The project was of great interest to the Capitals ownership group, and to Johnson in particular. Johnson founded the Middleburg Film Festival in Middleburg, Virginia, where “Willie” was screened Saturday.
“This is my film festival, and as an African-American woman this is where it should be shown,” Johnson told NHL.com. “This all works together. It’s about connecting the dots.”
Leonsis is also passionate about telling O’Ree’s life story, saying he wants O’Ree to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and included in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“The life lessons here, being able to overcome any kind of odds, grit, (stick-to-itiveness), those are life lessons that are most important,” Leonsis said. “We want to do everything that we can to get this film to be a mass-market phenomenon.”
The next stop for “Willie” is the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival on Oct. 25.
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