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Gordon S. Miller Written by Gordon S. Miller
Feb. 17, 2012 | 6:19 PM

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Filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin earned a well-deserved 2012 Oscar nomination for Undefeated, which documents the 2009 football season for Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tennessee.  But this is not a sports movie.  It’s the story of three students, O.C., Montrail, and Chavis, who are given opportunities to improve their lives through football, but only if they are able to take advantage of them. 

Since the school was established in 1899, Manassas High School had never won a playoff game in football.  The program had fallen into such despair they had gone 14 years without a win and were playing games for money against schools with much superior talent in order to raise the funds needed to keep the football program running.  Things began to turnaround in 2004 when local businessman Bill Courtney began to coach the team and inspire the boys to believe they could take charge of their destiny. 

O.C.‘s story has elements similar to Michael Oher’s, the offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens whose story was told in The Blind Side.  O.C. is an impressive lineman for his age.  Colleges are interested in giving him scholarships, but his poor grades are holding him back.  To assist him, he stays with Coach Mike Ray during the week to receive tutoring and then goes back home on the weekends to live with his grandmother.  The difference in neighborhoods is extreme.

Montrail, who is known as “Money,” is also an offensive lineman, but he is a very good student and sees football as his ticket to somewhere.  He is thrown a devastating setback that could cost him the future he dreamed about if he is unable to persevere.

Chavis is a junior returning to school after 15 months imprisoned in a juvenile facility.  He has a seemingly uncontrollable temper and may possibly suffer from ADD due to the trouble focusing he exhibits during the film.  When he channels his aggression, he makes for a great linebacker, but he wants to do things his own way, which doesn’t well within a team.

Courtney is devoted to his players, forming a deep bond that comes at the expense of his family during the season.  He is a friend and a father figure, the latter being something all three boys lack.  He works to the point of exasperation to help these boys who could easily end up with nothing like so many their peers.  Over the course of the season, the ups and downs of the games and the boys’ lives are palpable, due in part to the empathy Courtney vicariously fosters. 

Paraphrasing Courtney, he tells his players football doesn’t build character it reveals it.  Undefeated reveals the character of its subjects in a very touching film that shows the power caring for another individual can have.  The filmmakers steer clear of delving into socioeconomic issues, which they easily could have touched upon and are apparent anyway.  Rather than make a political film, they made an inspirational film.

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