Set against the backdrop of a high school football season, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s documentary UNDEFEATED is an intimate chronicle of three underprivileged student-athletes from inner-city Memphis and the volunteer coach trying to help them beat the odds on and off the field. For players and coaches alike, the season will be not only about winning games — it will be about how they grapple with the unforeseeable events that are part of football and part of life.
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Coming from a family of football fanatics; ingrained from birth, intrinsic in our genetic composition, male/female, there was no cure or escape from the game. Oh, the magnetic, magnificent, spellbinding, addictive oeuvre.
There is nothing more compelling than the "underdog", the omnipresent "defeated", rising like a phoenix from the ashes of their humiliation, accomplishing the unrealized, illusive winning season. Such is the Cinderella story of the Manassas Tigers (Memphis, Tennessee) a high school entrenched in archival losses; seasons without a win, hired by other schools as fodder to pound, plummet, and practice against. Along comes Bill Courtney, a mildly successful white businessman willing to pump and plunder the talent he envisions lurking beneath these tough, inner- city, frustrated, angry young men.
Directors Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin follow the team from commencement to conclusion through the 2009 season. The success of the documentary lies in depth of Mr. Courtney's commitment; displaying Olympian fortitude, never surrendering to the tempers, dispositions and whims of these volatile young men; dragging them from their homes to practice; gifting them the ability to function as a team, learning to sacrifice individuality for the collective. Whether a fan of the sport or not one has to revere the tenacity of a man (a volunteer) willing to sacrifice time with his wife and four children to salvage this bleak team; deprived economically, destitute of any formidable role models; struggling to see a light, somewhere in the tunnel of despair, a glimmer of a future.
Players: O.C. Brown, Montrail "Money" Brown, Chavis Daniels give satisfying and worthy performances playing themselves in these transformative times; not just the challenges on the field but also in the classroom, they strive to survive.
Having an uncle who was a college football coach, many weekends were made or destroyed by the final score. He was also a doctor and a philosopher with great equanimity, equally gracious in defeat; Bill Courtney taught his team this beautiful mantra. I will never fully grasp the seduction, lure of coaching; possibly Pygmalion, spiritual in coaxing the divine from the dismal, disadvantaged. "Undefeated" succeeds on many levels: elimination of racial divides; saluting the heroism that resides in all; dignity in defeat; ultimately, hope, love and tears spring from a myriad of guises.