THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY – Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

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Filmmakers John and Brad Hennegan follow six trainers as they put their amazing and beautiful thoroughbred horses–including the fabulous and tragic Barbaro–through the paces leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the annual race that takes place on the first Saturday of May. Think of this documentary as a cross between the two superb narrative features Seabiscuit and The Horse Whisperer, but this film has the extra excitement of being an entirely true story told with told with actual footage.

The actual footage is from the 132nd Annual Kentucky Derby (2006). With it, The First Saturday in May captures the full rush of the horse race that’s been called “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” But the film’s biggest achievement is its revaluation of behind-the-scenes stories of trainers and their thoroughbreds.

The Hennegans (they’re brothers, and this is their first film) follow six very different trainers who, for the first time in their careers, are in charge of horses that keep winning the stakes races that will qualify them for the Kentucky Derby. You witness their excitement mount as they strive for their chance to compete for the racing world’s holy grail. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).