Undefeated is essentially a real-life documentary version of the latter seasons of the TV show, Friday Night Lights. The Oscar-nominated film—directed by Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin—follows the 2009 football season of Manassas High School in North Memphis, a school more familiar with metal detectors and juvenile detention than with winning football games.
Like the fictionalized East Dillon Lions in Lights, the Manassas Tigers are comprised of mostly African-American players with the deck stacked against them. They come from broken families and poverty, their grades are poor, some have been to jail, and the idea of college is a dream most have long abandoned. But they have a coach, Bill Courtney, who believes in them, a coach who is like Lights' Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) both in his fatherly compassion and in his tough-love commitment to excellence. The film is a season-long slice-of-life reflection on what winning looks like in this unlikely partnership between a coach, his players, and a community. It's more than just a game, of course; and "undefeated," as we come to see, is about more than just avoiding a loss on the scoreboard.
Like any good documentary about a group or ensemble, Undefeated focuses on a handful of characters rather than everyone on the team. One of these is "O.C.," the massive senior left tackle who has perhaps the most talent and long-term athletic potential of anyone on the team. O.C.'s arc is strikingly similar to that of Michael Oher in The Blind Side. With his poor grades and dreadful test scores threatening to derail his college prospects, O.C. is taken in by a wealthy white family in posh East Memphis, where he spends a few days each week with a private tutor, in the hopes that he'll ...1
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