BELPRE - A Belpre man is featured in an independent documentary about the competitive world of checkers.
Alan Millhone, president of the American Checker Federation and checker referee, appears in "King Me," a film by Think Media Studios of Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Millhone viewed the film at last week's by-invitation-only screening at the Capital Theatre in Cleveland, attended by more than 300 people.
"The audience was glued to their seats," said the 62-year-old Millhone. "It was a fascinating experience being interviewed and filmed for the movie, and then actually seeing it all come together on the big screen."
Alan Millhone sits next to his custom-made checkerboard at his home in Belpre. Film crews from Think Media Studios filmed Millhone in his home for the documentary “King Me.” (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
The documentary, directed by Geoff Yaw of Think Media Studios, took two years to film. It centers on the week-long 2008 world championship checkers match between 19-year reigning world champion Ron King of Barbados and South African Lubabalo Kondlo, a national champion and grandmaster.
Millhone refereed the match in Medina, Ohio, in which King took home the title of World Champion in Go-As-You-Please checkers.
"The movie really shows the contrast between the two men, who are both brilliant checker players coming from completely different backgrounds," said Millhone.
"While King has the means to travel all over the world to compete, Lubabalo lives in poverty. I helped him find a sponsor to come play the championship match."
Millhone, who is featured in the film for about 10 minutes, said the audience gave it a standing ovation.
"The film also explores the game of checkers, which is really one of the finest games you could ever learn, once you scratch the surface," he said.
Film crews flew to Barbados and South Africa to film Kondlo and King, before traveling to Belpre to film and interview Millhone in his home.
Millhone talked with the film crew about his love of the game and shared his collection of more than 100 books on the game of checkers.
"Knowledge is power. If you want to be good at checkers, studying the game is a must," he said.
Millhone grew up playing the board game with his father.
"He beat me mercilessly every time," he said.
During his college years, Millhone spent hours playing checkers in the boiler room of the Washington County Courthouse, where a group of checker fanatics gathered every Saturday afternoon.
"I took a break from the game for several years when I started working construction and raising my family, but I took it up again in 2000," he said. "I was pretty excited when the filmmaker contacted me about the movie almost two years ago."
Yaw, the film director, said Millhone was the inspiration behind the documentary.
"I had lunch with him (Millhone) one day, and he told me about this great World Title checkers match between King and Kondlo. It all started from there," said Yaw. "I kind of stumbled into this great David and Goliath story."
Millhone was instrumental in the making of the movie, said Yaw.
"Alan is a local treasure; he had an important part in the film," he said. "I'm very proud of the final product. During the first screening, the audience laughed where I thought they would laugh, and cried where I thought they would cry. For a filmmaker, that is a pretty incredible thing."
The documentary was submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, held in January in Park City, Utah. The festival receives more than 10,000 submissions a year, but only 115 are selected. Yaw said he would know in a few weeks whether the movie will be shown.