Film Explores Life of Harold Dennis

Contact: Carl Nathe

Photo of Harold Dennis during his UK football days
Harold Dennis as a UK football player


Harold Dennis

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A production of Phoenix Films, Inc., “The Phoenix” authentically portrays Dennis’ dramatic journey toward wholeness and self-esteem after surviving a 1988 bus crash near Carrollton, Ky., in which a drunk driver slammed into a bus full of adults and children, killing 27 of the 67 persons on board. Dennis, a young teenager at the time, not only had to confront the loss of his lifelong friend, who perished sitting next to him on the bus, but also the powerful fears that his life would never return to normal.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 20, 2004) -- Is there any good that can come out of the worst alcohol-related accident in the nation’s history? The answer is a resounding “yes,” when you begin to examine the inspirational life of Harold Dennis.

“The Phoenix” is a dramatic feature film in pre-production that explores the remarkable true story of Dennis, a young man who pulled himself away from a tragic, transforming moment and revived his life with moving courage and vigor.

A production of Phoenix Films, Inc., “The Phoenix” authentically portrays Dennis’ dramatic journey toward wholeness and self-esteem after surviving a 1988 bus crash near Carrollton, Ky., in which a drunk driver slammed into a bus full of adults and children, killing 27 of the 67 persons on board. Dennis, a young teenager at the time, not only had to confront the loss of his lifelong friend, who perished sitting next to him on the bus, but also the powerful fears that his life would never return to normal.

Despite his disfiguring scars and survivor guilt, Dennis not only found true love with a beautiful young woman, but a few years later he garnered headlines when he made the University of Kentucky football team as a walk-on and later earned a full athletic scholarship. Bill Curry, the UK football head coach at the time, said, “Harold Dennis has a brutal situation, but the brutal situation doesn't have Harold.”

Dennis won national awards, such as the Gene Autry award and Arete Courage award, the latter presented by boxing champion Evander Holyfield and former NFL star and network television sports personality Ahmad Rashad. His story was prominently featured on ESPN, CBS This Morning, People Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.

“The Phoenix” brings vividly to life the fascinating story of how one young man’s near-death catastrophe turns into a courageous life-sustaining quest. The film is written by screenwriter and UK history professor Daniel Blake Smith, who recently was named chair of his department. Dennis serves, along with Smith, as executive producers of the project.

Smith’s previous screenwriting credits include “February One,” a civil rights documentary that will air next February on PBS, and “Black Indians: An American Story,“ a film narrated by James Earl Jones that was broadcast nationally last year on commercial networks.

The production company currently is seeking financing for the independent film, hoping to begin production this fall. “We had a great meeting with the UK Athletics Department,” Smith said. “They want to cooperate in every way they can to help us shoot the film using actual UK locations.”

Dennis said, “Even though there has already been a lot of interest from Hollywood producers in our project, we much prefer to make the film independently. That way we not only ensure authenticity, but we also get to take advantage of creative talent in this region.”

Once completed, the producers plan to take “The Phoenix” to film festivals throughout the country, seeking distribution for national theatrical release. Anyone interested in the production can reach Phoenix Films at (859) 509-6864 or (859) 983-5460, and by e-mail: daniel@phoenixfilms.net.


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