|Former Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens. (Photo courtesy of Dorsey Levens)|
Former Green Bay Packer running back Dorsey Levens has transitioned from the football field to filmmaking. After retiring in 2006, Dorsey made the leap into film with a cameo role as the head coach in the film “We Are Marshall” with Matthew McConaughey and the romantic comedy “Three Can Play That Game” opposite Vivica A. Fox in 2007. He has set his sights on producing plays and most recently “Bell Rung: An Alarming Portrait of Professional Football,” a documentary about the high price athletes pay to play professional football.
“Bell Rung” features interviews with current and former athletes and their families, as well as leading commentators. Levens worked with co-producer Nick Basta and director Zach Herrmann on the documentary, which includes Ellis Hobbs, Jamal Lewis, Lamar Campbell, Mike Cheever and others talking about the serious issue of concussions.
I spoke with Levens about the documentary, how it came about and what he hopes it will accomplish.
Why was it important for you to produce “Bell Rung” as your first documentary, and why now?
It wasn’t that “Bell Rung” had to be my first documentary as much as I just wanted to do a documentary. Any documentary. One of my high school teammates, Nick Basta, suggested we do a documentary about concussions in hockey. Since I don’t follow hockey, I suggested we do something about football because there had been some very compelling stories about suicides that may have been related to traumatic brain injury. So almost two years ago, we began to do research and found some very disturbing information. “Bell Rung” is a culmination of all that we found out.
As a former player, was it easy or difficult to get other players on board with the project and also be on camera?
It was difficult to get current players to speak candidly about concussions. As a former player I understand that there is a small window of opportunity to make as much of a career as possible and one slip of the tongue could jeopardize everything, so I really didn’t expect much from the current guys. The retired players spoke freely. Almost as if we were just sitting in the locker room having a very candid conversation.
What does “having your bell rung” mean?
It’s a term used in football when you get hit on your head and your vision gets blurry. You see stars and may lose your balance.
When you played football, did you ever get your “bell rung” and if so, what were the effects that you had to deal with?
All players, especially at the higher levels, get their bells rung several times each game. Maybe more if they play in the trenches. The effects I deal with are sleeplessness, irritability and some memory loss.
Did you approach the NFL to be involved in the documentary? Have you received any reactions from the NFL?
I haven’t approached the NFL to be a part of the documentary and I haven’t had any reactions from them. I would love to hear their response though.
[Currently, Levens is one of hundreds of former NFL veterans who have elected to sue the league over the way it has failed to handle concussions.]
What would you like to see happen as a result of the screenings of “Bell Rung” around the country?
[I’d like to] raise awareness of what we now know about the effects of repeated head blows, especially in kids who are more susceptible to life-altering brain injuries. And to get lifetime health care for everyone who ever played in the NFL.
The Boston premiere of “Bell Rung” takes place this Thursday, Oct. 18 at Blackman Auditorium at Northeastern University. The screening begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
A panel discussion will follow featuring Levens, Dan Liebowitz, executive director of Northeastern University’s Sport In Society program and Dr. Neal McGrath, a neuropsychologist from Sports Concussion New England. The moderator will be Ron Thomas, a nationally renowned sportswriter who’s been writing about race and sports since the 1970s.
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This Saturday, Oct. 20 Nigerian singer/songwriter Nneka performs in The Red Room at Café 939 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 in Advance; $12 Day of Show.
Boyz II Men return to The Wilbur for one show this Sunday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m.
World Music/CRASHarts presents Acoustic Africa: Afropean Women on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. The show is an exhilarating musical journey celebrating the roots of traditional African music and contemporary pop and R&B with three of Africa’s most compelling female singers. Tickets: $28. For tickets and information call World Music/CRASHarts at (617) 876-4275 or visit www.WorldMusic.org.
Friends of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert present the 35th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert featuring Terri Lyne Carrington on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Blackman Auditorium at Northeastern University. The concert will be hosted by Eric Jackson.
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