Cinema With Sharlette: 'Undefeated'
There's nothing like a feel-good football movie with a great story and a great message. It's even better when that movie is a showcase of actual events.
The Oscar nominated documentary feature, Undefeated, follows the 2009 football season of the North Memphis Manassas High School Tigers. The underfunded football team was known for being so awful that other schools would pay to use them for their homecoming games. This is until the huge heart of volunteer Coach Bill Courtney, stepped in to change the fate of the team -- and the lives of the players.
Executive produced by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs along with the work of filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin; the production team does a remarkable job of showing the underprivileged reality of a city hit hard by unemployment and factory closures. The doc manages to capture the beauty of camaraderie.
This film explores the controversy of a white coach leading a predominately African-American school football team. Courtney, who himself had an absent father, takes the opportunity be a father figure even at times admitting his neglect to his own family. O.C. Brown, Montrial 'Money' Brown, and Chavis Daniels, mentored by Courtney, face major difficulties ranging from academic, behavioral problems, and physical injuries. Even one of these issues could have become an easy excuse to remain defeated.
The players become men before your eyes, which parallels the persistence of an undefeated Coach Bill. The cameras never stop rolling on and off the field. When Coach Bill shouts "Character" instead of "Score," it becomes obvious that the sport of football is merely the backdrop. The revelation of character through adversity shows itself through the smiles of the players as the real story highlights the diligence of their Coach.
Undefeated is the reason why we love documentaries and is a sure reminder that there is always hope in a hopeless situation.