Apr. 25, 2012 - Issue #862: The Real Deal
That level of disparity places Undefeated somewhere within the framework of an underdog sports story, as filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin follow Courtney's attempts to lead the team to break that losing streak, backed by a group of high school seniors who've been under his guidance and discipline for their entire high school careers.
The resulting documentary plays out somewhere between a real-life Friday Night Lights and an intensely convincing social-systems-need-fixing documentary. It's effective in both regards.
The season we see the Tigers play out includes most major sports film clichés—everything from failing grades keeping players benched to a torn ACL to a teammember that refuses to play nice with others, but knowing it's real pushes all of those moments into a strangely affecting place. And off the field, we see dashes of broken homes, religious influence and even some suggestions of the massive disparity between those of different skin colours.
That only a few of the team's players get a "where are they now?" moment as the credits role speaks to the harsh truth that not everybody gets out of these systems in the real world. But the title isn't so much a reference to a football season—the Tigers lose the very first game they play, in fact—but about what the discipline of being part of a team at a young age can give you. "Football reveals character," coach Courtney's so fond of saying. But he's built these kids up so they have something to reveal. Watching him do it, and watching them show it in the world they have to live in is both thrilling and heart-rending to watch.
Directed by Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin
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