Fans celebrate Tonya Harding with local film festival

tonya harding  sharp edges

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Fans of Tonya Harding had a unique opportunity Thursday to watch two films about and starring the Portland native at the Alberta Rose Theater for the Tonya Harding Film Festival. 

Sandra Luckow created the 1986 documentary “Sharp Edges” about Tonya Harding’s early skating career. She said the film “I, Tonya” was visually inspired by her documentary. (KOIN) 

Harding has been back in the public eye a lot lately with the popular and award-winning film, “I, Tonya,” telling her story, but it was a 1986 documentary that first captured the potential she had as a young skater.

Sandra Luckow made the documentary “Sharp Edges” for her senior thesis at Yale. The film documents Harding’s first national figure skating competition before she was a household name. Luckow told KOIN 6 News you could see how much potential Harding had and the obstacles she overcame. 

“What’s very surprising is how prescient is it,” Luckow said. “You can see the child that made the woman and the obstacle that impacted her that gave rise to what ended up happening to her.”

Luckow told KOIN 6 News how “I, Tonya” was visually inspired on her film, notably the image of Harding’s mother, LaVona, with the bird on her shoulder. That performance just won Allison Janney an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. 

A screenshot from Sandra Luckow’s documentary, “Sharp Edges” about Tonya Harding’s early skaing career. (Courtesy of Sandra Luckow) 

The second film screened was “Breakaway,” starring Harding in her straight-to-VHS acting debut.

Event organizer John-Ryan Griggs said “Breakaway” was hard to find, but it’s an example of one of the things Harding did her ban from figure skating. 

“She fell, metaphorically speaking, and she picks herself back up again and found something else to do and that just happened to be a really bad action film from 1996,” he said. 

“I think Tonya is a fascinating character because she’s sort of a reflection of people,” Griggs said. “She’s an exaggerated character. She’s had really high highs and really low lows — and she’s a hometown hero.”

The festival was a world premier of “Sharp Edges” in a way, because Luckow never got the rights to the music in it, so it couldn’t be screened. She said the “I, Tonya” distributors wanted to include her film in the DVD extras, so she changed some music and got the rights. 

Harding herself did not attend, but there were plenty of fans in the audience. 

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