Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

December 10, 2013

Basketball team, small town struggle with defeat

If “Medora” were just another movie about a hard-luck high school basketball team, you might pan it and say, “So what? Who cares? Seen that.”

But it would be a mistake to dismisses this 82-minute documentary about a small town in southern Indiana and its 72-student high school that knows more despair than success.

"Medora" takes an intimate, raw look at people struggling now that the world has sped past them - much as it has thousands of other rural communities in America.

The film is showing at selected theaters or can be seen on-demand at www.medorafilm.com. It will be featured on the PBS program “Independent Lens” beginning March 31.

If the rollout is unconventional, so is the movie.

The film centers on a basketball team but is really about the survival of a way of life. One resident of Medora, whose population hovers around 700, observes: “Once we lose these small towns, we can’t get them back.”

What makes this story different is that it’s told by teenagers, some who have dreams and aspirations and others who struggle to make it to the next day.

Producers Davy Rothbart and Andrew Cohn set up this conflict early in the movie. Coach Justin Gilbert excoriates his team, which lost all 22 games the previous year, for failing to score a point in the fourth quarter of another humbling loss.

“Are you kidding me?” he says. “You had no points. Zero. Zero points in the fourth quarter. Zero. None. In eight minutes. Eight minutes. Eight minutes. Zero. Are you kidding me?”

The players slump, their heads bowed, on a locker room bench. Their expressions range between lost and humiliated.

If that was bad, an observation by one of the team’s better players is even more wrenching. Introspective Dylan McSoley ponders life without a father and whether he should try to contact him. “Hey, this is Dylan McSoley. You might not know me, but I’m your son,” he says, leaving a telephone message for a man he’s never seen except for once on a Facebook post.

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