‘Undefeated,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


An Oscar nominee as best documentary, “Undefeated” is a sports film that’s less about football than it is about a coach, his players and the journey they take together. And it’s a terrific trip.

Their team is the Manassas Tigers, a high school football squad in North Memphis, in one the city’s poorer neighborhoods. The coach is Bill Courtney, who owns a hardwood-flooring business and has served as Manassas’ head football coach for six years on a volunteer basis.

The film picks him up as fall practice begins for the 2009 season and prospects aren’t great. Manassas hasn’t had a winning season in years and has never won a playoff game. They are doormats in their conference, their division and their state.

But Courtney is ever the optimist – and he’s feeling good about this season for practical reasons. He’s got a core of seniors who have been playing together and practicing with him since they were in eighth grade. One of his potentially best players is out of juvie and back in school. And one of his stars is being scouted by major colleges

Still, his challenge remains: He has to build a team out of a group of individuals who come from, at best, trying circumstances, dealing with poverty, absent parents and their own behavior problems as obstacles.

This review continues on my website.

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