Mon, 23 Jul 2012 4:42p.m.
By Dylan Moran
“If you think football builds character, it does not. It reveals character.”
These words are uttered by Manassas Tigers coach Bill Courtney early in Undefeated, and reveal a lot about the film.
The Tigers have never won a football playoff game, but coach Courtney – a volunteer who gives up countless hours of his time – is determined to change this.
Unlike many sports documentaries, this is a film about people. The season’s progression swiftly takes a back seat as it instead focuses on the ups and downs of Courtney and the two kids for whom this will be their final season as a Tiger, Montrail ‘Money’ Brown and O.C. Brown (no relation to one another).
Money realises he does not have the physical stature to make a career out of football, but is committed to the team while working toward securing a college education.
OC, on the other hand, has caught the eye of college recruiters thanks to a highlight video put on YouTube by his coach.
This same clip was the reason filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin originally set up camp in Manassas High School, hoping to document his rise to prominence similar to Michael Oher, whose story is told in the tissue-friendly Sandra Bullock flick The Blind Side.
Unfortunately the college scouts also need OC to achieve academically – and for a boy from Memphis’ low-income North Side, education doesn’t come easily.
The burning desire for these two to escape their town is highlighted by how little it has going on. To call the homes decrepit would be to pay them a compliment, and the terrible poverty the community has to live with is obvious. To get an idea, go to Google Images and search “North Memphis”.
I fear this film will be dismissed by a number of people since it’s about American sports but it offers an incredible insight into a number of levels of American life.
The first and most obvious is the massive impact football can have on people’s lives. The cheesiness of “family” being preached in shows such as Friday Night Lights is not exaggerated. In one scene of Undefeated a former NFL player comes to speak to the kids, and asks how many of them have more than one parent. Not one raises their hand.
For the vast majority Courtney is the closest they have ever had to a father, and this also brings challenges as they struggle to trust him – juniors such as Chavis Daniels openly rebel against coach Courtney’s orders – but those who have grown to know him such as OC and Money treat him as a confidant, someone they can rely on in a community which doesn’t have much to offer.
The film’s conclusion is equal parts heart-warming and heartbreaking. OC and Money realise adulthood is looming and there’s a chance they‘ll not achieve their goals and be stuck in Manassas, Tennessee for the rest of their lives.
:: Director: Daniel Lindsay,TJ Martin
:: Starring:Bill Courtney, Montrail ‘Money’ Brown, Chavis Daniels, O.C. Brown, Mike Ray
:: Running Time: 113 mins
:: Rating: G
:: More information: Click here
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