(directed by T. J. Martin & Daniel Lindsay, 2012)
****+ (out of 5)
* * *
> This Oscar-winning documentary casts an eye on a small southern high school, struggling to defy all odds, to do something not done in over a century of school history: to turn a perennial losing football team into a playoff contender.
. UNDEFEATED is all about the coach (conspicuously white in a nearly all-black environment) and his dedicated, heartfelt quest to mentor these needy kids and instill what character in them that he can, before they move on into the larger world of their adult life. Never a “sports kinda guy”, I’ve never been a big fan of sports films, (with notable exceptions- I’m working on a column about it.) but this film transcended its subject as it delved into the intimate lives of the troubled players, struggling to transcend ego and form an effective team. We are close-up voyeurs to their hopes and heartbreaks, the challenges they rise above or fall victim to, repeating the terrible patterns that haunt their lives. The deep, genuine emotion, and the way we get to feel that we know and care about these contenders, makes the deciding game very exciting indeed.
. Frankly, I came away from the film uplifted, if my heart a bit bruised, and with a new respect for the football culture in America. If it really is about character, (The pertinent quote from the film: “Some people say that football builds character. Football does not build character. Football reveals character.”), if there really are great, caring coaches like this guy out there trying to fulfill the potential of a dangerously vulnerable population, then I have been too quick to judge, based on the brutality, the veneer of the violently competitive ethic of the game.
. Football in America can be a very good thing. And this- is a very good film! See it.
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