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pretty dark horses

A Short Film by Carlton Holder



A biracial teenage gymnast overlooked by the National team coaches at her gym and looking for a way out of her Philadelphia slum… a broken down African American coach who had once glimpsed Olympic glory as an athlete, but fell short… find one another and prove that together they’re something pretty special.

Behind the curtain of smiling child athletes in shiny leotards is a world littered with broken bones and shattered dreams. In the vein of movies like ROCKY and CREED, “Pretty Dark Horses” proves that you can overcome your harsh environment, if you have a dream and the will.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA— MARE RIPLEY (13) – a precocious half Black, half Irish gymnast – has been passed over by the National team coaches at her gym PEGASUS ELITE GYMNASTICS (PEG) year after year. Now too old for an international career, Mare has only one dream left: to become good enough by the time she graduates high school to win a coveted athletic scholarship onto a college gymnastics team and leave behind the melting pot slum neighborhood she has grown up in; aptly named the FORGOTTEN BOTTOM. She only has two obstacles. The recreational competitive club team Mare is on isn’t likely to get her noticed by college scouts. The second problem is, she isn’t good enough. Her coach ROSE LAKES has a big heart. But Rose can’t teach her the big skills. Along comes CYRUS BATTLE (47) – an African American alumni of PEG. He was rescued from the streets by a caring coach and ended up nearly making the Olympic team. Gymnastics was his ticket out of the Bottom. He received a college scholarship and became an NCAA champ. He headlined a European Acrobatic circus show. And finally he became a Hollywood stuntman. But during a stunt, he shattered his hip. With his career went the women, the money and all his Hollywood friends. Cyrus ended up right back where he started: the old neighborhood he swore he would never return to. Bitter and broke, Cyrus is forced to take a job coaching the rec-com team at PEG. Everything changes when he meets and begins training Mare. Soon everyone at PEG begins to take notice when Mare actually begins outshining the Olympic hopefuls. As the season starts, Mare begins to win big. But when Mare dislocates her knee, it looks like everything is over. The other coaches at the gym, seeing an opportunity to get rid of Cyrus, fire him, labeling him a dangerous coach.
Visiting Mare, Cyrus discovers that Mare’s mother is CASSANDRA (42) – an Irish ex-rhythmic gymnastics star… and Cyrus’ former lover. Things take an even stranger turn when Cyrus learns that Mare is the daughter he never knew he had. Driven not by gold medals or Olympic dreams, but by a pure love of the sport, Cyrus helps Mare rehabilitate her knee and broken spirit; training in a broken down open workout recreation center. Now Mare and Cyrus have a second chance to prove that a dark horse can win. Because when you come from The Bottom… there’s only one way out. Up.

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