Netflix Adds a Family-Friendly Sports Documentary to Its Originals Slate

/ Nov 5, 2013


Netflix continues to expand its original documentary slate with “The Short Game,” a critically-acclaimed film from Emmy-winning director Josh Greenbaum.

The sports documentary, which also serves as Greenbaum’s feature debut, tells the story of eight young golfers, all under the age of seven, as they train for and compete in the World Championship of Junior Golf*. The film won the 2013 Audience Award at South by Southwest. Netflix also took the time to point out that the film is “Academy qualified” (eligible for Oscar contention) thanks to a limited theatrical release through Phase 4 Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Referring to the film as its first original documentary, Netflix says “The Short Game” will be available to subscribers in all territories on Thursday, December 12.

Interestingly, up until now, the documentary films picked up by Netflix have had a very sociopolitical edge, whether it was “Hank: Five Years from the Brink” (about the global financial crisis), “Bridegroom” (about the fight for marriage equality), or “The Square” (about the Egyptian Revolution). All critically-acclaimed films, but not ones that you would necessarily sit down and watch with your family. Which is fine, if Netflix wants to be HBO, it has to offer the type of stuff you’d normally see on the premium cable channel.

But “family-friendly” programming is big on Netflix — it’s why Netflix has a section devoted to children’s content; it’s why the service has a deal in place with DreamWorks Animation to produce original series based on the studio’s popular characters.

It’s why Netflix would want to include “The Short Game” as it expands into offering original movies. “We seek to provide the very best storytelling within the documentary filmmaking category and ‘The Short Game’ is the rare example of a beautifully told and heart-warming tale which appeals to all generations,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s VP of original documentary and comedy.

“The Short Game” is produced by Rafael Marmor, Christopher Leggett, and Greenbaum, and executive produced by Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake**, Timm Oberwelland, John Battsek, and David Frankel.

If Greenbaum’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he is also the creator and director of Hulu’s original documentary series, “Behind the Mask,” which follows a group of sports mascots working at all levels of competition, and debuted on Hulu last week.

* In comparison, I was still learning how to tie my shoes before I turned seven.

** Should I have led with that? I should have probably led with that.

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