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Tony Hawks' Playing The Moldovans At Tennis, City Screen, York, July 12
COMEDIAN Tony Hawks is a man of many mediums.
Regular success has come his way in stand-up, television, radio, music and books, and now he is promoting his new film, Playing The Moldovans At Tennis, by holding a question-and-answer session after Thursday evening’s screening at City Screen, York, as part of a tour of independent cinemas.
Funded with his retirement savings, the film is based on his book of the same name and was sparked by a bet 14 years ago with a friend that Tony could beat all of the Moldovan football team at tennis. It seems he is in the habit of putting into practice such provocative and slightly outlandish statements; his last book, Round Ireland With A Fridge, saw Tony hitch-hiking with fridge in tow.
But this is a story with a difference, as Tony’s experiences in Moldova led to much more than just a few sporting fixtures. On witnessing first hand the inequality in 1980s post-Communist Moldova, he was struck by the neglect of social welfare needs for the most vulnerable age ranges in society. In response, he founded the Hippocrates Children’s Centre in Chisinau, a charity which will benefit from the film proceeds and books.
“The sport became a bit of a sideline event,” he says. “It became about a clash of two cultures really – the West, where eccentric bets such as this one are possible, and Eastern Europe with the deprived lives of Moldova’s poor.”
Tony is anxious to highlight that Moldova today is a different place, and much has changed for the better. But the film is set in 1988, and his initial impressions at that time were of “the bleakest of places”.
“It was really quite shocking for a Westerner. There were no town centres, no nightlife and nowhere to eat out. On buses no-one would smile or speak,” he says.
However, on going into people’s homes, he discovered quite the reverse. He was struck by the hospitality of Moldovan families, who were willing to open up to him. The film charts various characters who influenced and helped Tony in his project, among whom he highlights Grigore and Dina in particular as “very inspirational people”.
Dina Covalciuc now runs the Hippocrates Children’s Centre, which works primarily with children suffering from cerebral palsy, offering life-altering treatment such as speech or occupational therapy. Tony says he goes back regularly and loves seeing the work they are doing.
“The charity currently helps more than 400 children through one centre, and we’re hoping to expand to another centre and the treatment of between 600 and 800 children a year.”
All bets have a forfeit if lost, and Tony’s Moldovan one was suitably eye-catching: “Obviously I can’t reveal the end of the film, but the bet was that whichever of us lost would strip naked outside a tube station and sing the Moldovan national anthem,” he says.
What does he think is the overriding message of the film? “It’s a true story; the message is about how we have to give something back. I suppose it’s all about giving,” he concludes.
You can buy tickets for Thursday’s show or pay to watch the film online, at moldovansmovie.com
- Nina Pullman
• Tony Hawks will hold a Q and A session after Thursday’s 6.15pm screening of Playing The Moldovans At Tennis, PG. at City Screen, York. Box office: 0871 902 5726 or picturehouses.co.uk.
• Tonight, Tony also will introduce his film at Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds, at 8.30pm tonight. Box office: 0113 275 2045.
Free tickets – but only if you are Moldovan!
TONY Hawks is marking the release of Playing The Moldovans At Tennis by giving away a pair of tickets to the first two Moldovans who arrive with their passports at City Screen for Thursday’s screening.
“Are you or any of your local friends, family or colleagues Moldovan? If so, I’d love to hear from you,” says Tony, the film’s protagonist, producer and co-director.
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