Guest post by Joe Ball
Proud Hoosier. Consumer of movies, music, art, smart jokes, tacos & bourbon.
Years ago, at the start of Indiana Pacers home games and just after the introduction of the visiting team, the arena would darken and the center court video boards illuminated a sepia-toned montage of historic Pacers games. The audio of a radio announcer calling the on-screen plays was mixed with the theme music from the movie HOOSIERS. At the culmination of the montage, just after Reggie Miller drains a signature 3-pointer over Michael Jordan, the screens flip to a blinding white background and the following quote appears:
“In 49 states it’s just basketball…but this is Indiana.”
Having grown up in Indiana, I know how true those words are. Basketball lore is woven into countless stories of our state. MEDORA, a documentary by filmmakers Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart, is one such tale. Following a 2009 The New York Times article on both the town and the basketball team’s trials, the filmmakers set out to document why the team has gone decades without a winning record.
It is a story of players, products of broken homes and bad luck, who don’t dream of reaching the big stage of playing for a state championship. They dream of staying out of trouble; of reuniting with parents struggling with alcoholism; of being the first in their family to graduate high school; of maybe joining the military or possibly getting into college. They dream of winning just one basketball game.
It is also a story of what a winless basketball team can mean to a community struggling to stay alive. Nestled just south of US-50 (between Bedford and Seymour) Medora, Indiana has a population of approximately 500 people. Hard hit by the recession, factories have closed and jobs have left the impoverished farming community. With an enrollment of just 72, Medora High School is one of the smallest schools in the state. Its sports teams routinely play against those from consolidated schools, sometimes with talent pools ten-times the size of Medora’s. The city’s school system is facing a budget crisis and consolidation seems to be an option in the near future. As one resident of Medora points out, “This town will die when that school leaves.” In a town with nothing, one win could mean everything.
Yes, this is a basketball story and yes, this is Indiana. But Medora could be anywhere and its story is the story of countless small towns throughout the country. I won’t bore you with sports movie clichés to entice you to see this film. If you need one, just know that Medora is the ultimate underdog story. And a story that needs to be seen.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for MEDORA.