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Interview

Discover why Mylène Moreno chose to document the 1999 season of the WPFL.

POV: What inspired you to make this documentary about a professional women's football league?

Mylène Moreno: "In June 1999, I was thumbing through an issue of Sports Illustrated for Women and found a small column announcing the formation of the Women's Professional Football League and was immediately curious. I had just completed a short, sorrowful film about a 16-year-old, married mother of two daughters. The experience of making the film got me thinking about the differences between Maribel, the film's main subject, and myself. They boiled down to opportunities. One of the opportunities I am most grateful for was the chance to play sports. I played soccer and loved the game, the competition and the experience of being on a team. I also learned to set goals for myself and gained confidence while achieving many of my expectations. Perhaps Maribel wouldn't have been in her predicament if she had had recreational alternatives to romance.

I decided my next documentary project would explore some aspect of women's sports. I began searching for a way to celebrate dedicated, pioneering female athletes in a film that all audiences, but especially adolescent girls, might enjoy watching. Meanwhile the Women's World Cup tournament was underway, exploding everyone's expectations. There was already talk of a professional women's soccer league. So, when I discovered that two promoters in Minneapolis were about to launch a full contact professional football league for women, I was intrigued. Not only were they trying to launch a women's sports league — next to impossible — but they were attempting a sport that women are not supposed to play. Here was a great story to follow with promising characters."

POV: How did you meet the players in your film?

Moreno: "A friend of mine returned from a political conference in Washington DC with the name and phone number of a gal who was planning to try out for the football league. My friend did not know I was already aware of the WPFL, but he knew I'd be interested. The contact was Jane Bolin. She became one of my two main characters. I phoned her and we arranged to meet in Minneapolis for the first try-outs. She was great — warm, funny and outspoken. On the same trip I met lots of others who also became part of the film, including Kertia 'Moochie' Lofton — the other main character. Moochie was intense, captivating and an incredible athlete.

Without knowing how the season would shake out, I knew that I had found the way to approach a film. I would follow these two — Jane, a political consultant, and Moochie, an aspiring basketball pro and single mother — as well as Shannon Davis, a quarterback and NASA engineer, Jen Dercole, a recent high school graduate from Vancouver, and Kaylee Alayón, a hotel administrator from Miami, over the course of their first season and see how things turned out. Would they realize their dreams of becoming professional athletes? And would the league succeed? I never expected Jane and Moochie to wind up on opposite teams, nor did I anticipate that the competition between their two teams would be so fierce."

POV: How easy was it to gain permission from the players and the league to make this film and were there any surprises?

Moreno: "There were a number of interesting revelations. It was amusing (and revealing of the pervasiveness of football in our collective psyche) to discover how quickly these newly minted football players took to the macho culture of NFL-style football. I witnessed gestures and taunts that came right out of the most stereotypical sidelines. The league administrators, often under great duress, were always willing to have our camera in on the action. They and all the athletes seemed devoted to the cause of making this league work by availing themselves of all publicity. Whether or not they were being featured in the documentary, they were consistently hospitable. A final, unanticipated twist came in my own self-perception: I came to realize that I was no longer a jock. I was just the filmmaker in the midst of dozens of true, committed athletes. Since I never even tried to play football with them (at 5'1" and years out of fitness, it just wasn't that appealing), I can't honestly report that during this project I hung up my cleats. They were already moth-eaten."

POV: Have the players seen the film? What did they think of it?

Moreno:"Both Jane and Moochie have told me they love it. What a relief. Although I believe they represent themselves very well on camera and are positive, well-developed characters in TRUE-HEARTED VIXENS, I wasn't sure how they would react to seeing themselves on screen — sometimes in painful situations."

POV: What are Jane and Moochie doing now?

Moreno: "Recently, Jane returned to rugby, the sport that brought her to tackle football. She was on the way to making a select travel team when she re-aggravated a knee injury. While healing from surgery she has begun taking classes in preparation for business school. Moochie has finally laid her pro dreams to rest and is a full-fledged deputy sheriff of Broward County, Florida. She is focused on finding the stability she spoke of in TRUE-HEARTED VIXENS for herself and her daughter."

POV: What's going on with the Women's Professional Football League now?

Moreno:"The WPFL is gearing up for a third season this coming fall, 2001, but now there are two additional leagues. Carter Turner, formerly of the WPFL, has started his own league — the Women's American Football League. Catherine Masters, a promoter in Tennessee, has started the National Women's Football League. None can yet provide the salaries and benefits of a truly professional endeavor."





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