Coach Bill Courtney has been coaching for six years at Manassas High School in a very run down part of Memphis and he has pulled together a team that he is hoping will get the school their first ever playoff win. But he is working with students with poor academic records, difficult home lives and low self-esteem. His challenge is as much to build them up as people as it is to build them up as footballers.
It didn’t seem to matter that I don’t know how the sport works or what a playoff is – it is all about the relationships and the journey. Personally, I think almost two hours is too long for a documentary, and I think that there was plenty in the first half that could have been trimmed. On the other hand, trimming some of this may well have taken away from the empathy the audience feels for the team and for the coach.
It’s pretty hard to watch this and not think of both The Blind Side and Remember the Titans – if only because of the connections between struggle and high school football in the US. Both of these are based on real stories and feature beautiful Hollywood stars, whereas Undefeated is far more gritty reality.
Undefeated won the Oscar for Best Documentary, Features.