The makers of “Undefeated,” which won the Oscar for documentary feature Sunday, may have gotten off to a rocky start when accepting their Academy Awards on stage: They dropped the F-bomb, for starters, were bleeped out and their speech was cut off at 45 seconds. But Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin and Richard Middlemas were charming, if a bit apologetic, backstage.
“It wasn’t the classiest thing,” admitted Martin. “But it did come from the heart.”
Their film about an inner-city football team at Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tenn., had a good deal of heart as well. Lindsay said they’d wanted to dedicate the award, when accepting it, to the community of North Memphis, but they’d gotten cut off prematurely.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Lindsay. “Because we wouldn’t be here without them.”
“We can’t thank the community of North Memphis enough,” added Martin.
The team at Manassas High is all black; volunteer coach Bill Courtney is white. Martin said the film wasn’t initially meant to make a pointed political or social statement, but he’s pleased it’s sparked discussion of such issues. “When we got there and saw race and class was not an issue for the coach and volunteer players, for us, it was not our duty to bring that element into it if it wasn’t an element for them. But that said, the whole point of it was to elicit and inspire a conversation about race and class."
Lindsay threw effusive shout-outs to all the other nominated films in the documentary category; backstage, he credited the win in part to current filmmaking technology. “It’s partly because of the technology — you can tell stories you couldn’t tell before,” he said. “And people are clamoring for something genuine. I think we’re sick of manufactured.”
— Deborah Vankin
Photo: Coach Bill Courtney and star lineman O.C. Brown figure in "Undefeated." Credit: Dan Lindsay/TJ Martin/ The Weinstein Co.