FOR ONE IS FOR EVERYONE
Cal Crew Documentary Hits All
The Right Chords
This just well may be the golden
age of rowing movies. First, A Hero For Daisy gained
national attention and acclaim for its portrayal of
rowing as a vehicle for a gender equity. Now, the film
ALL FOR ONE: IN THE SPIRIT OF THE RACE chronicles an
18-month stretch of rowing at Cal-Berkeley between 1998
and 1999. While ALL FOR ONE may not have the universal
appeal of the story told by "Daisy" it is
nonetheless a rowing film head and shoulders above all
The film was made by Dominique Derrenger who rowed
at Berkeley High School during the 1980's but chose film
school over rowing during college. While he drifted away
from participating in rowing, Derrenger remained
enamoured with his memories of the sport. At the same
time he grew frustrated with how crew had been portrayed
in Hollywood movies and felt that "rowing usually
played only a small or insignificant roll in the story, a
photogenic backdrop at best," says Derrenger.
"I wanted to make a film that took you inside the
sport, and focused on its many positive virtues."
Ironically, Derrenger chose to film at Cal because
he was a Berkeley native and had learned about some the
program's rich history. The fact that his film ended up
telling the story of Cal's ascension to a national
championship in 1999 was, according to Derrenger,
"just a matter of being in the right place at the
ALL FOR ONE opens with a look back at Cal's three
Olympic champion crews, and it is this history of success
that forms the backdrop for the entire film. Interviews
with Don Blessing, the last living member of the 1928
Olympic crew, also add the type of personal perspective
essential to any good storytelling effort.
During the film Derrenger seamlessly mixes together
a century's worth of rowing footage. He skillfully uses
35mm motion picture cameras to shoot from a variety of
resourceful angles, with a wide range of film stocks, and
variable frame rates to emphasize the sport's inherent
beauty. Derrenger has created a film that pulls you into
rowing and lets you feel not only what it's like to win
but also what it's like to step into a boat in the first
place. His filming is at its best during a montage that
shows several crews over the ages getting their shells
onto the water. The scene flips back-and-forth between
vintage and modern day footage, and without saying a
word, Derrenger conveys how little time has changed the
essential traditions of rowing.
The film follows, and is narrated by, Cal coach
Steve Gladstone and the highlight of his story is when he
speaks about his own motivations for, and philosophies
regarding, coaching. Many in rowing view Gladstone as
something of a mystery, a coach with the magical ability
to produce winning crews anywhere he goes, and the movie
does a creditable job of revealing him as a man of
intensity and drive.
Several Cal oarsmen are interviewed and while all
have an interesting thought or two, coxswain Michael
Lennig and 1998 stroke Andreja Stevanovic offer the most
compelling views of the sport and their places in it.
Lennig in particular speaks eloquently on his growth
through his participation in rowing.
Anyone who has rowed in college - or raced on any
level for that matter - will understand the nuances that
make ALL FOR ONE such a good film. It is not the rowing
scenes, but the points right before and right after the
races, whether won or lost, that establish the type of
credibility that stirs emotions. Tension, disappointment,
and elation are the common experiences of the collegiate
rower and Derrenger has caught them all on film.
- The Rowing News
FILM STUDIES FOUNDATION OF
Passion, pride and poetry: these
are some of the elements that personify the spirit of the
In a time when selfishness, self-centeredness and
singularity seem to be acceptable as strengths, this film
reminds us that teamwork and loyalty are so much more
gratifying and rewarding.
ALL FOR ONE: IN THE SPIRIT OF THE RACE is a
refreshing study in those philosophies that struggle to
maintain themselves as valuable mores and foundations
during these turbulent times. Produced, directed and
edited by Dominique Derrenger, the film smoothly mixes
several components that produce a tight and interesting
format. It also successfully toggles back and forth
between University of California-Berkeley's
Olympic-winning crew coach Ky Ebright, one of his
esteemed gold medal-winning students Don Blessing, and
the young UC Golden Bears of today.
The engaging and charismatic presiding varsity
coach, Stephen Gladstone, beautifully narrates the film.
It is quite obvious that he still practices the
philosophies set in place by Ebright back in the 1920's.
As a result of these standards, no other university in
America has ever produced three gold-medal winning
Olympic (8-oared) crews.
In watching this film we have the privilege to
observe the development of the sport from its inception.
Rowing was established as the first American
intercollegiate sport in the U.S., and the world. We
watch in a series of flashbacks the progression
throughout the years until we reach the present day
melange. Again, it is so abundantly clear that the
coaches of today continue to carry through the ethics and
tones of yester-year.
They are quietly cool, professional and obviously
respectful of each and every member on the squad. Full of
strong stirrings of teamwork - reckless daring and
aggression - we also find there is no room for egos or
The team is built upon eight very well-placed
oarsmen and a coxswain at the back, coaching, pushing,
and encouraging the team to the finish line.
Collectively, they are poetry in motion as they glide
across the glassy body of water, mesmerizing us with
their unfaltering movement.
To compound the complexity of what these men are
includes their athletic strength and stamina along with a
rigorous academic agenda. Most are majoring in such
tedious subjects as physics, chemistry, and calculus. The
degree of difficulty is enhanced by the fact that they
attend UC-Berkeley, an extremely competitive school.
However, the spirit of the race brings balance to their
complicated lives allowing the time they need away from
their studies. It was clearly stated that many experience
their best grades during rowing season.
Rowing becomes a release from school and school
becomes a release from rowing." They base their
survival upon the simple philosophy of Ky Ebright
"Get ahead, and stay ahead." Honesty, trust,
intelligence, motivation, and honor: these are some of
the elements that personify the spirit of the race.
- The Sentinel-Record
(Reviewed at The 2002 Hot Springs
Documentary Film Festival)
CAL CREW TEAM GETS SOME
STROKES IN DOCUMENTARY
Dominique Derrenger set out to show the virtues of men's
intercollegiate rowing through the eyes of the crew team
at UC Berkeley, past and present. Loyalty, teamwork,
integrity, trust, motivation, honor and perseverance were
the values that still remained within the oldest sport on
campus, even 130 years after its establishment.
Cal athletic director and head men's rowing coach
Stephen Gladstone is scheduled to appear at the Orinda
Film Festival on Sept. 21 to discuss how the 1998-1999
team overcame tremendous odds and competed for its first
national title in 25 years. ALL FOR ONE: IN THE SPIRIT OF
THE RACE is a feature length documentary that chronicled
an 18-month stretch of the modern team's experiences.
The festival features a series of screening
events," said executive director Randy Holleschau.
"ALL FOR ONE traces the dramatic history of UC
Berkeley's rowing team."
This particular program on Sunday evening will
allow film buffs to interact with filmmakers, exchange
ideas and learn more about what goes on behind the
camera. It is part of the festival's attempt to make
films more accessible to audiences.
The cinematography in ALL FOR ONE could be another
reason for the popularity of the rowing film.
Professional movie cameras and equipment captured the
graceful moves of the eight oarsmen and coxswain, in
addition to the aesthetic beauty of the photogenic sport.
The historical documentary makes the connection
between past teams that won several Olympic championships
and current teams going through transitions of their own.
The sports story gives historical background, yet has a
biographical style to it, according to Derrenger.
Derrenger will also be on hand at the festival to
discuss his movie's memorable flashbacks, vivid rowing
footage and coaching philosophies that apply to real
life. Much of the film focuses on Gladstone's champion
building skills as one of the most influential rowing
coaches in the nation.
ALL FOR ONE had its world premiere at the Hot
Springs Documentary Film Festival last year. As the
programming chair for Orinda's festival, Jo Alice
Canterbury thought that it should have a screening here,
since Lamorinda is considered Cal country.
It's not a highly advertised sport, yet it's a
highly disciplined sport," she said. "I just
thought it was a fascinating sport.
- The Contra Costa Times
(Reviewed at the 2003 Orinda Film
CREW COACH BRINGS SPORT TO
ORINDA FILM FESTIVAL
crew season, UC Berkeley's athletic director, Stephen
Gladstone, carefully guides eight oarsmen and a coxswain
in each boat and watches a drama unfold. As head coach of
the men's varsity crew, he has long identified with the
ethics the ancient sport embodies.
His team's clinching of the national championship
in 1999 for the first time in 25 years, is chronicled in
the movie ALL FOR ONE: IN THE SPIRIT OF THE RACE to be
shown today at the Orinda Film Festival. Gladstone seemed
nonplussed about being captured on film. He said the
athletes, like artists, perform for the sheer love of the
"The spectator is rather irrelevant," he said.
And, he noted, the movie's director was appropriately
unobtrusive. The filmmaker is Berkeley native Dominique
Derrenger, who rowed at the Ebright Boathouse during high
"The timelessness, the unchanging nature of what
this sport requires, he's been able to capture
that," Gladstone said of Derrenger's work.
"It's a special movie. You get a sense of the
perfection, the simplicity, the special bond that exists
between the coach and the oarsmen."
longtime friend Martin McNair, who coached Cal's crew
team from 1967 through 1972, said the months of practice
culminate in some fairly high drama. "There were
times I felt I was going to vomit my whole stomach,"
the Point Richmond resident remembered. "It all gets
unfolded in six minutes on the (2,000-meter) race
Gladstone said the sport is "theater, but it's
unscripted. It's revealing of human nature. For people to
give themselves as entirely as these athletes do to this
endeavor requires tremendous trust. ... It's powerful. It
touches the human soul in a visceral way," he said.
"And there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It
can be won or lost in one-hundredths of a second." Gladstone, who narrates the film, noted the increase in
the number of rowing associations over the past two
decades. In particular, he pointed to the popularity of
the Oakland Strokes and the creation of the Jack London
Aquatic Center as two examples.
"I like to think the elemental appeal is being
translated into the community," he said.
Part of the sport's appeal to Gladstone and McNair
is the interdependence among the rowers. Above and beyond
the requisite expertise in exercise physiology and
biomechanics, Gladstone described his coaching style as
providing the oarsmen "a point of focus." If
Gladstone's oarsmen are performing at peak level, their
motions seem deceptively effortless.
McNair recalled how boat builder George Pocock
described the sport: "Eight guys teeing off
simultaneously ... with each golf ball going to the same
place, in a straight line, at the same time ... at a
racing cadence of 35 times each minute."
Gladstone took up coaching crew after abandoning
previous career pursuits of investing and advertising,
which he said had "no draw or nobility." His
love of the sport began growing in high school, when he
rowed on the Housatonic River in western Connecticut and
met a former coxswain and Holy Cross University monk
Father Herbert Sill, whom Gladstone called his spiritual
father. It was a time and place among his happiest.
He began coaching at Princeton in 1966 and went on
to Harvard as the varsity lightweight coach with four
undefeated seasons before succeeding McNair at Cal in
1972. "I realized I could have the most direct,
obvious impact on the whole group," he recalled.
"I had the distinct feeling I can make a difference
now. ... with one stroke. It was very heady."
- The Contra Costa Times
September 21, 2003