The 2015 Sundance Documentary Premieres reach the halfway point with Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn’s IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST, which follows the professional football dreams of four Polynesian teenagers.
Sundance Program Description:
Despite a small population with a brief history in the US, Samoans and Tongans are 28 times more likely than any other minority group to play football for the famed NFL. Filmed over four years, filmmaker Tony Vainuku tracks the journeys of four talented Polynesian high school football players as they strive toward their lifelong, and potentially life-changing, goal of professional recruitment.
Charismatic, passionate, and determined, the players’ love of family is matched only by their love of this most American sport that seems to flow through their veins. Their speedy transformation from adolescence to adulthood in the high-stakes world of collegiate football is filmed with incredible access, shining a light on the extreme pressures to succeed that emanate from within the tightly knit Polynesian community, as well as from the outside.
But gang violence, addiction, and poverty are a constant danger that can easily bring down a dream. Even with the best moms, siblings, and friends cheering from the grandstands, not everyone makes it to the big time.
Both Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn make their feature documentary debut with this project. Director/producer Cohn’s first short, SEARCHING FAITH, was made at the age of sixteen as part of Reel Stories, the Sundance Institute’s Youth Documentary Workshop, in 2005. The filmmaking duo benefit from the experience of their executive producers, who include Geralyn White Dreyfous, whose 2015 Sundance projects also include PROPHET’S PREY, HOT GIRLS WANTED, DREAMCATCHER, and THE MASK YOU LIVE IN, as well as recent alums THE CRASH REEL (2013), THE SQUARE (2013), ANITA (2013), and THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012); Mark Lipson, who previously produced Sundance titles HOW TO MAKE THE CRUELEST MONTH (1998), FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL (1997), and ALMOST YOU (1985), as well as the non-Sundance Errol Morris films THE THIN BLUE LINE and TABLOID; and Gavin Dougan, who executive produced Park City alum PANDORA’S PROMISE (2013) and THE SQUARE. The film’s editors include William Haugse, whose Sundance credits include fellow 2015 title CITY OF GOLD, as well as alums HOOP DREAMS (1994, 2014), NO IMPACT MAN (2009), and STEVIE (2003); Ken Schneider, who also cut Sundance titles A FIERCE GREEN FIRE (2012), RALPH ELLISON: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY (2002), and REGRET TO INFORM (1999); and Ericka Concha.
Why You Should Watch:
Providing an inside look at the aspirational role of athletics within the Polynesian community in America, Salt Lake City-based Vainuku, the first Tongan American filmmaker to screen at Sundance, has a knowing, first-hand perspective on the opportunities – and challenges – faced by his charismatic young subjects and their families.
For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page and still in-progress website. Check out the film’s trailer and Vainuku’s Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
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