While many know the acclaim that sisters Venus and Serena Williams hold in the tennis fraternity, few have come to truly understand the actions it took to get them to those heights. The in-depth story of sport’s most famous parent has been brought to life in an acclaimed documentary called On The Line: The Richard Williams Story.
Richard Williams, the subject of a documentary, retraces his family’s journey with never-before-seen archive footage and intimate new interviews. Will Smith won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Richard Williams with the dramatised King Richard, but here he tells the story of the family’s growth in his own words. He talks us through his childhood in Louisiana, born to a family of sharecroppers, to the tennis courts of Compton, Los Angeles.
Stuart McClave, director and producer of the film, said, “Sitting down with Mr. Williams over the course of several years and listening to his story — many aspects of which I thought I knew going into this project as an avid tennis player and fan — only made me realize how much of this story hadn’t been told before or been allowed to be told. While the media and tennis establishment eventually came to celebrate the sisters, they still have not given Mr. Williams the respect and credit he deserves. I would like to thank him personally and everyone else who shared their incredible insights on the power of this story — a story I firmly believe is one of the most inspirational, unbelievable and crucial American stories of all time.”
Variety praised it for how it “reflects the resilience and determination required by the Williams family to prove their sceptics wrong” while Golden Globe Awards called it “a sweeping cultural reassessment” that explores “not merely athletic accomplishment, but chiefly the contours of the modern African American experience.”
The film also explores the complex relationship between Richard and his daughters. He was a demanding father, but he was also their biggest champion. He pushed them to their limits, but he also loved them unconditionally.
It debuted at Tribeca in 2022 but is available to South African audiences on Sunday, 10 September at 6pm on M-Net. The series can also be live streamed on DStv Stream and will be available on DStv Catch Up after broadcast.