A documentary that follows the Manassas Tigers football team, a severely underfunded and underprivileged football team -- who were even hired out as a practice team for more successful schools -- as they reverse their fortunes, thanks to coach Bill Courtney. Written by
Was rejected by the prestigious Sundance festival in 2012, so its directors was accepted and shown at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin--where it was bought for distribution and went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. See more »
The character of a man is not measured in how he handles his wins, but what he does with his failures
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An Inspiring Film about the Struggles of an Inner City High School Football Team
Undefeated which premiered at Austin's SXSW Film Festival this week fits into a long line of inspiring sports films. It is very much in the tradition of Steve James's Hoop Dreams in its exploration of the struggles of inner city African-American youths to overcome great odds using athletics as a means to escape poverty and deprivation. The filmmaker tells the story of Memphis's Manassas Tigers focusing in on the coach and three of his players as they attempt to produce a special season at a school that has had a long history of football futility. Coach Bill Courtney is an inspiring coach who devotes himself to this football team, even at a cost to the time he can spend with his own family. He makes the team into a family and focuses on character. He and his coaches go above-and-beyond the call of duty raising money for the team and making sure the students also focus on their academics. Despite the reality that the coaches are white and their students are black, issues of race seem to play very little role in their story.
The filmmakers tell the story in mostly chronological with no narration and only very limited input from outside observers. Perhaps the most remarkable element of the film is that the filmmakers were with the team for the entire season and were able to disappear into the background and become part of the team. In so doing, they were often able to capture real emotion and conflict that participants are often afraid to put on film. The honesty of the film is powerful. The music is excellent and complements the storytelling nicely. While Undefeated is powerful and inspiring, it is probably a little too long and could use some more editing.
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