San Francisco 2018
An intimate look at a Huntsville AL high school wrestling team.
JO Johnson High School is a struggling institution in a state which already typically has low test scores and graduation rates. Against the odds, social studies teacher Chris Scribner forms a wrestling team that gives its students hope. Herbert and Belfer’s film focuses on four of his team members – Jamario, Teague, Jailen, and Jaquan – whose trials on the mat are nothing compared to what they face in their personal lives, impacted by class and race. As they contend with absent parents and dysfunctional families, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and racial profiling – on top of the universal struggle of adolescents to assert their independence – these young athletes seek focus and control through Scribner’s team, but they don’t always beat the odds. Though at times feeling like it has one subject too many, with varying levels of engagement and responsiveness from its protagonists, the film ultimately remains compelling in its empathetic and intimate coming of age portrait of four young adults striving to better themselves and their situation.