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‘MINK!’: Oscar Winner Ben Proudfoot Pairs With Naomi Osaka For Doc On Woman Who Paved Way For Title IX

Lawmaker Patsy Takemoto Mink

EXCLUSIVE: MINK!, filmmaker Ben Proudfoot’s follow up to his Oscar-winning documentary short The Queen of Basketball, will launch this week, a project that teams him with tennis star Naomi Osaka and her newly-announced production company.

MINK! tells the story of Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Hawaii Democrat who became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she co-authored the groundbreaking Title IX legislation that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that received federal funding. The short film will premiere as part of The New York Times Op-Docs series on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the signing of Title IX as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. MINK! Is being released in association with Osaka’s media company Hana Kuma.

Proudfoot’s Breakwater Studios developed and produced the film. The story is told by Wendy Mink, Patsy’s surviving daughter, who “deftly and wryly charts Mink’s path from a young girl on the island of Maui as a third-generation descendant of Japanese immigrants and ultimately to her historic bid for Congress.”

“Ben Proudfoot brilliantly interweaves two origin stories: my mother’s, and the guarantee of equity for athletics under Title IX,” Wendy Mink said in a statement. “This kind of storytelling is so important, both to foreground the contributions of the real people behind movements for justice and to show that even grand principles are touched by lived experience. It means the world to me that Naomi Osaka and The New York Times have chosen to lift up my mother’s story.”

Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion and the subject herself of the Emmy-contending Netflix docuseries Naomi Osaka, directed by Garrett Bradley, that explores her Japanese-Haitian heritage, athletic accomplishments and her emergence as an activist for equity and racial justice.

“Often the most significant achievements happen because of incredible individuals whose stories, unfortunately, get lost in the re-telling of history,” Osaka noted. “Particularly with Title IX, we’ve mentioned the momentous effects it’s had on women’s sports but we don’t talk enough about the incredible individual who worked the system to make it happen– Patsy Takemoto Mink. Patsy was the first woman of color in Congress, a Japanese-American woman, and I was immediately inspired by her story. Without Patsy, there is no Naomi Osaka or legions of other female athletes who got a chance because of her work.”

Osaka continued, “I’m also determined to continue motivating girls to compete in sports through my own non-profit, Play Academy, and I am excited to partner with Ben Proudfoot to tell Patsy’s story as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX.”

Proudfoot earned an Oscar nomination for his 2020 short A Concerto Is a Conversation (co-directed by Kris Bowers). He won the Academy Award in March for The Queen of Basketball, the documentary that celebrated basketball great Lucy Harris, a three-time collegiate champion who might never have had an opportunity to play college ball without the passage of Title IX.

MINK! is really a spiritual prequel to The Queen of Basketball, because without Patsy Mink, I don’t think you’d have Lucy Harris,” Proudfoot commented. “On the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s signing, I am so proud to once again partner with The New York Times Op-Docs and a personal role model, superstar Naomi Osaka, to help bring this important story to audiences everywhere, for free.”

Proudfoot added, “I hope MINK! helps illuminate the precarious nature of progress in this country, the importance of persistence, and give overdue credit and glory to the foundations that American women of color like Patsy Mink and Lucy Harris built and continue to deserve our highest recognition for.”

MINK! will premiere at 5 AM ET Thursday on The New York Times website, and two hours later on the Times’ YouTube channel. The Queen of Basketball has racked up more than 1 million views between those two sites. At the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Title IX becoming law by unveiling an official portrait of Patsy Takemoto Mink.

Title IX has become a bedrock of American society, yet after it was first passed, opponents tried to scuttle it.

“Rep. Mink and her colleagues mounted a mighty [defense of] Title IX’s integrity which culminated in a crucial vote in July 1975,” notes a description of the documentary. “In a dramatic collision of the personal and professional, Ms. Mink’s 23-year-old daughter, Wendy, was in a serious car accident on the day of the vote, which pulled Rep. Mink from the U.S. Capital during the roll call, preventing her from casting the deciding vote and threatening Title IX entirely.”

Watch a teaser-trailer for MINK! above.

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