'Undefeated': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week
If you’re in the mood for some football and some inspiration, heavily seasoned by the South, catch “Undefeated.” This documentary is a classic story of an underdog team trying to overcome the odds. It just won the Oscar for best doc a few weeks ago, and given its fundamental appreciation of flawed humanity and the possibilities for change, it's easy to see why.
Filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, who shared directing and many other duties, spent a season with the Manassas Tigers, a seriously underfunded team filled with African American teens on the margins. Manassas is a North Memphis, Tenn., high school with a legacy of losing seasons and a history of poverty. Into that mix throw determined volunteer coach Bill Courtney, whose team meetings sound a lot like tent revivals, with cursing and praying used as motivation in equal measure.
It’s a combustible mix of kids with the focus on three: talented, smart and troubled O.C., "Money" and Chavis respectively. The filmmakers do a good job of balancing between coach and players as life lessons emerge from the winning and losing.
The victories are sweet, the losses heartbreaking. And then there's the football -- great high school football.
–- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic