FilmRise Buys Pit Bull Rescue Documentary ‘The Champions’

The Champions
Courtesy of FilmRise

FilmRise has acquired exclusive worldwide rights in all media to “The Champions,” a documentary about the rescue and redemption of five pit bulls from NFL star Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring, Variety has learned exclusively.

FilmRise will release “The Champions” digitally on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and Vudu. The film will debut on DVD and Blu-ray this winter.

“The Champions” made its world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival. It won the 2015 Zelda Penzel “giving voice to the voiceless” award and the people’s choice award at the 2015 Denver Film Festival.

“‘The Champions’ is a story about hope and resilience, but most importantly, the relationship we as humans have with animals,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher.

The film marks producer-director Darcy Dennett’s documentary debut.

“We are humbled and overwhelmed by the positive response we have received to the film so far, and hope that securing wider distribution will allow many more people to share in the uplifting story of these extraordinary dogs and the inspirational work of Best Friends Animal Society and BAD RAP in 2016,” Dennett said.

BAD RAP is a support organization for pit bulls and owners.

Authorities seized more than 70 dogs, mostly pit bulls, in 2007 after raiding Vick’s property in Virginia. Vick and three others were convicted on federal offense conspiracy charges and imprisoned. Vick was suspended by the NFL indefinitely, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 and resumed his career in 2009.

FilmRise’s most recent acquisitions are “Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans”; the highest grossing film in China’s history, “Monster Hunt”; and “Janis: Little Girl Blue.”

The deal for “The Champions” was negotiated by FilmRise’s Danny Fisher and Max Einhorn with Preferred Content’s Zac Bright and Kevin Iwashina, representing the filmmakers, along with legal counsel Jake Levy of Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell + Vassallo.

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  1. Vanessa says:

    Yay! We just had a watch party here for our neighborhood and the film was received very favorably! It even changed the opinion of someone who was previously uneducated about the issue and had believed the lies and misinformation that a certain group has been putting out. It was really an eye opener for many people and several were motivated to either donate or start volunteering for a local org that helps these dogs. Great job on the film.

  2. Also, from my experience, most dogs labeled” pit bulls” at the southern California dog shelters are actually not all American Pit Bull Terrier. Many are staffies, American bull dogs, and even boxers. This causes lots of dogs to carry around a stigma that shouldn’t ever have belonged to them in the first place. Lennox, a beautiful family dog who was murdered in Belfast, North Ireland on 7/11/12 for being a “pit bull” was half lab!

  3. Terrible auto correct . I had a Chow with behavior issues and a handful of small dogs who were “fear biters”

  4. As someone who has rescued over 150 shelter dogs, three quarters of those being pit bulls and other “bully breed” dogs, I only had one pit bull who had behavior problems. I also had a show with behavior issues, and a beagle with aggression problems, and a handfull of small dogs who were fear buyers. The smallest dog I ever rescued was six pounds, and he tore my hands to shredded ona few occasions, the worst a dog has ever hurt me. From personal experience, breed has nothing to do with what dogs are going to cause injuries. Bless those who are working hard to be a positive voice for this misunderstood breed.

  5. Sand says:

    5 pit bulls that are behaving on a total of 70 that were seized doesn’t give a real perspective on the dangers of these animals.
    Look up the victims of attacks from these animals and you’ll get the real perspective.
    It’s mindblowing and everyone should know about it!

  6. Beth C. Pfohl says:

    Congrats on the release of the film. Having been a volunteer at the Best Friend’s Sanctuary I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there.

  7. Simply put, border collies do not herd sheep because they are raised on sheep farms; rather, they are raised on sheep farms because they herd.

    In addition pointers point, retrievers retrieve, and mastiffs guard, all because those traits are part of their breed expectations, meaning strong and continuous selection in the underlying breeding program ”

    Pit bulls do not attack because they are raised with dog fighters and drug dealers, dog fighters and drug dealers use pit bulls because they attack!

    It is their nature, their genetic truth and reality.!!

    It is not how you raise them rather it is simply what they are.!!

    Just like sled dogs run and pull, it is just their nature.!

    A pit bull type dog is what it is and does what it is.You can no more alter it genetic makeup then you can a collies to herd, a hounds to track, a retriever’s to retrieve, a labs to swim, a pointers to point, a sled dog to run and pull.

    They do what they are and a pit bull type dog is a mauling violent killer that has been bred to be a land shark, nothing you do can change that, even if you have them from birth.

    No matter if you love them, or how you nurture, train, rehabilitate, raise them optimally as normal dogs from birth, you can not change their Genetic reality to Kill, Maul, Maim, Disfigure, Dismember, cause Life Flights or trips to the Intensive Care Unit.

    For over 800 years the current pit bull type dog was brought into being through careful selective genetic breeding to create the most violent murderous fighting dog possible

  8. Council Bluffs, Iowa.

    Pit bulls are not only problematic in large cities; they threaten mid-sized cities and small towns as well. Located in the heartland, Council Bluffs, Iowa has about 60,000 citizens.
    After a series of devastating attacks, beginning in 2003, Council Bluffs joined over 600 U.S. cities and began regulating pit bulls.

    The results of the Council Bluffs pit bull ban, which began January 1, 2005, show the positive effects such legislation can have on public safety in just a few years time:1.
    Council Bluffs: Pit Bull Bite Statistics.

    Year Pit Bull Bites % of All Bites.
    2004 29 23%.
    2005 12 10% (year ban enacted).
    2006 6 4%.
    2007 2 2%.
    2008 0 0%.
    2009 0 0%.
    2010 1 1%.
    2011 0 0%.

  9. Doctors at University Hospital Respond
    In 2011, the Annals of Surgery published a critical peer-reviewed scientific study pertaining to severe and fatal pit bull injuries (Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs, by John K. Bini, et al.), authored by doctors at San Antonio University Hospital.
    In the landmark 2012 Tracey v. Solesky decision, which declared pit bulls “inherently dangerous,” the highest court in Maryland cited the entire abstract of this study. The conclusions by the University Hospital doctors:

    pit bull Conclusions: Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the US mortality rates related to dog bites.

    The majority of the San Antonio Express-News article pertains to this study and a rehearsed rehashing of the 30-year old pit bull debate.
    One of the primary authors of the study, Dr. Stephen Cohn, is interviewed in the article. “We’ve had people that have almost lost their legs just going out for a run,”
    said Dr. Stephen Cohn, a professor of surgery at the Health Science Center.
    “This is a complete hazard for all of us.”

  10. Pit bull type dogs make up only 6% of the US dog population yet they kill more then 99% of the 50,000 people, pets and livestock every year in the US.!

    Over the last 800 years Pit bull type dogs were Breed to kill Bears, Bulls & Large draft horses in the pit and then later each other in dog fights, that is what they are and they are what they do, Kill, Maul, Maim, Disfigure, Dismember, cause Life Flights or trips to the Intensive Care Unit.

    This is what they do, what they are and why they are not fit for human interaction then or now.!!

  11. Pit bulls kill, disfigure and severely injure more children, adults, pets and livestock than all other breeds combined. There are hundreds of thousands of victims! Pit bulls were bred for bloodsport – they were never meant to be pets. That’s why dog fighters continue to love them and that’s why so many pit bulls raised right with wonderful families are suddenly attacking for no other reason than that it’s in their genetics to do so. Heavily funded pit-pushing organizations like Animal Farm and Best Friends have been spreading myths like “it’s all how you raise them” for many years and the number of pit bull attack victims in the US has increased 773% since Michael Vick’s conviction in 2007. To further this propaganda with a film would be adding to the overwhelming bloodshed and carnage that has already ruined the lives of far too many. A documentary does need to be made on the pit bull crisis, but a factual one please, complete with the million pit bulls being euthanized every year that PETA has been trying to stop with mandatory spay and neutering. It wouldn’t just be a much more interesting film to watch, but it would also save the lives of people, animals and pit bulls. NationalPitBullVictimAwareness.org

  12. Harve Morgan says:

    Disgraceful. While mothers sit beside closed casket, you want to glorify the murderers. How about a documentary about how the victims of pit bulls have to live their lives after their attacks? The Canadian woman who is asked to leave places because of her face, or the child who asked for his old face back when the bandages were taken off, should be documented. Make a documentary with the truth for a change. And the truth is that man’s best friend should not be killing man and his children.

  13. Liz says:

    Looking forward to the release.

  14. So glad this documentary is going to be available for all to see. Best Friends is a wonderful organization and the Vicktory Dogs are inspirational!

    • Harve Morgan says:

      Best Fiends is not what you think they are. Google the Process Church. Best Fiends is a facade, they discovered that ‘saving’ animals brings in more donations than their church worship of Satan as well as Jesus does. Tug and Denzel, two Vick dogs, escaped and literally ripped the head off another non-Vick dog awaiting adoption.

    • Alas, the majority of the pit bulls taken from Vick were not a “success”.. Most could not be placed in homes and even the ones that were, many of them, have/had “adjustment” problems. Best Friends Animal Society is an organization dedicated to keeping pit bulls available and plentiful across the USA, no matter the cost of lives and limbs of people and pets and livestock animals. They don’t do it for love, but for $$$$$$$$. You seem a tad naive on this subject.

      • Paul is right, most were successfully adopted into homes. Most adjusted quite well, actually. I would suggest that YOU do more actual research. To start off with: Read this book: The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant. Go meet the people who rehabilitated and adopted these dogs. Get to know them. Watch these dogs on a day by day basis. I am sorry, Mary Ann, but it is YOU who are naive. Get to reading and getting to know the breed firsthand before posting anymore misinformed crap. Have a good day.

      • Paul says:

        You are very wrong. 40 + of the 53 were adopted into homes

  15. Karen Batchelor says:

    You have a pit bull-hating troll commenting here. I would remove but there is no “report” button.

    • Pit bull haters….another word for victims/survivors and their families who advocate for something different than the pit bull advocacy’s “education” campaign. It seems there will always be work for you folks since there seems to be an escalating number of victims…er…”haters.”

    • Paul says:

      And no doubt all of them had adjustment issues. They were brutally abused, however, all of them have lived successful, productive lives within their homes.

      To say BF does it for the money is a bit naive yourself. A group of 20 or so, with $0 money moved to the middle of no where in Southern Utah to help the world and all you have is criticism? Can we hear your resume of life saving work?

  16. You have a spam comment here…I would remove, but there is no “report” button.

    • Ah, “Karen” harassing me everywhere I go. Gosh “Karen”, you DO get around. I don’t hate pit bulls. I DO hate the damge they are doing in this country with regard to mauling, maiming and killing people and pets and livestock animals by the thousands. I DO hate that they are filling up graves from coast to coast with human and animal victims of their maulings. I DO hate that their so called advocates cannot seem to find a way to make their pits safer in the community without having to be FORCED to by BSL or total banning. Now, why would You call me a pit bull hater?

      • n0kjf says:

        Paul, if the dogs were killing only the owners, I might buy in. They kill children and neighbors who had no say in avoiding a dog someone else elected to have as a “pet”. You like numbers, Let’s fix yours.

        34 million airbags were recalled because they MIGHT HAVE contributed to 6 deaths, By the numbers pit bull type dogs should be recalled after causing 23 USA human deaths so far this year. If the average killing rate by pit bull type dogs continues, 3 people will be killed by pit bull type dogs before Christmas.

        Pits; 3,000,000 in the USA @ 23 human kills, = 0.000007667%
        Airbags recalled; 34,000,000 @ 6 maybe human kills = 0.00001765%
        By the numbers, you are at least 43.4 times more likely to be butchered by a pit bull type dog than you are by an airbag. Based on the numbers, I think it is past time to recall pit bull type dogs.

        To dismiss human causalities is the hateful comment here.

      • Paul says:

        Well by saying they are filling up the graves by thousands is a nonfactual and hateful comment. Considering there are only 20-40 human deaths a year contributed towards dogs….there are over 5 million pit bull type dogs in the world, even if they were responsible for every human death, that would make 0.000008% of pit bulls deadly.

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