Attendees at the President’s Holiday Social were treated to a special sneak preview of the rough cut of “Breaking Balls,” a warm, sincere and humorous look at the 2013 Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce and events leading up to the tournament. Over three years in the making, the documentary by local screenwriter and director, John Vourlis, was viewed by over 150 people to rave reviews and thunderous applause.
This feature film length documentary chronicles the game of bocce as seen through the lens of the 30th Anniversary of the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce tournament, one of the largest bocce tournaments in North America, held in Wickliffe, Ohio the weekend of August 23-25, 2013.
Bocce is not just a sport, it is a subculture, a community of players, supporters and fans.
Many of these players are Italian-American or have ancestors that come from the Adriatic southern coast of Europe. Their love of the game and the camaraderie that surrounds it is what this story is all about. They are the heart of the sport as they nurture and pass down from one generation to the next their appreciation of this unique game.
The documentary follows three local key figures in the lead up to and the aftermath of the 2013 tournament. Gino Latessa is the tournament coordinator and President Emeritus of the Wickliffe Italian American Club. Gino’s father taught him to play bocce, and he has passed on his love of the game to his son and grandson. Brian Polantz, world class bocce player, who was playing in the “Triple Crown” events of the World Series of Bocce in Rome, NY; the Cleveland International Bocce Tournament in Mayfield, OH; and the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce in Wickliffe, OH. Brian had never won the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. And finally, Dominic Olivo (now deceased), who was head grounds keeper of the Wickliffe Italian American Club bocce courts. These courts are considered to be among the finest outdoor bocce courts in North America. Dominic, knowing his health was failing, made sure that his knowledge was passed on to the next generation, and worked with the crew getting the courts ready for the tournament.
These three storylines converge upon the 30th Annual Cleveland Challenge Cup tournament. The documentary portrays the passion of the individuals involved and captures the tension, anticipation, and competition of the bocce tournaments highlighted in the film.
All present are looking forward to seeing the final version of the documentary when John Vourlis completes it. John explained that there are more scenes to be added, the musical score needs to be completed and the entire film will be “polished.” He hopes to secure distribution sometime in 2017, so stay tuned for more information on this. John has more than 25 years working in the entertainment industry. He is currently an adjunct professor in Film and Digital Media at Cleveland State University.
The Pat O’Brien Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce is held annually at the Wickliffe Italian American Club picnic grounds at 29717 Euclid Ave. For a first-hand experience of this fun-filled event, plan to attend on August 25, 26 and 27, 2017.
by Randy Continenza