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Portland Rhino: Ultimate Frisbee Team Dives into Limelight in Upcoming Film

Griffin JacksonContributor IIJanuary 5, 2012

With more than 12,000 athletes spread over 700 university- and club-level teams, Ultimate Frisbee is growing in recognition and popularity across North America.

And the sport is about to get a big boost.

This summer, Ultimate is moving off the field and onto the silver screen. The sport will be the focus of the upcoming film called Chasing Sarasota. Highly-anticipated by a rugged, loyal band of Ultimate fanatics, even non-aficionados will be able to appreciate the emotion in the story and brotherhoods that form around this rising sport.

Specifically, Chasing Sarasota zeroes in on world-class Ultimate team Portland Rhino, following their every move throughout the 2011 season.

“Our team dynamic is pretty unique,” said one of Rhino’s captains, Matt Mastrantuono, in an e-mail interview. “We’re a group of close friends who share a love for Ultimate Frisbee and being ridiculous. We train hard, we play hard and care about what we do.”

Rhino’s story really began in 2008 when the team solidified around a group of regulars who transformed the team into a contender for the national title—the chief aim of which is the USA Ultimate Club Nationals held in Sarasota, Florida every year. Reaching this Super Bowl of the Ultimate world is the epitome of the sport and the constant dream of the most passionate and dedicated players.

As unpaid athletes, Rhino and the rest of the Ultimate community find time to play the sport they love despite the intense commitment. Time, energy and risk of injury demand a level of devotion that pulls together the most loyal players of the highest caliber.

In Rhino’s case, the “version” of the team featured in Chasing Sarasota played together for three years before the film. Their story is an incredible one certain to touch audiences and inspire fans of sports everywhere.

In 2010, after drawing within two points of their goal of reaching the national championships in Sarasota, Rhino suffered a heartbreaking defeat, collapsing to the tune of five straight points allowed. And their chance at the title vanished.

“At the end of 2010, I was in a pretty low place,” Mastrantuono told Skyd Magazine. “After losing in the game, to go to Nationals and enduring such a heartbreaking collapse, I didn’t know how to think about the 2011 season.”

Naturally, the loss hit the whole team very hard.

“Guys were just sitting on the field crestfallen,” said Mastrantuono, “and we all had a hard time moving on from that loss. We had to rebuild from that loss and find a way to put it together in 2011.”

Overcoming a variety of obstacles, Portland’s Ultimate club persevered. Chasing Sarasota is the story of that perseverance.

“It gives an inside look at everything that goes on with an elite Ultimate Frisbee club,” Mastrantuono said of the film. “You will see personal stories of the players' lives. You see exciting game highlights. There are dramatic story lines about team injuries, player disqualification and historic wins for the program.”

According to the film’s Facebook page, “The film is a revealing portrait about Rhino looking to reload, redeem and find a place on the national stage.”

The feature-length film comes out of Blurred Lens Productions and will move around the country on a grassroots film tour in the coming months.

Though Mastrantuono admits to wanting to promote Ultimate, neither his goal nor the goal of Rhino as a team is to turn the film into a blockbuster or propel Ultimate into major-league status.

Mastrantuono said, “We play the game because we love it and let everything else fall into place.”

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