Why 'Medora' Might Be This Year's Best Sports Documentary

Why 'Medora' Might Be This Year's Best Sports Documentary

Mar 11, 2013


If you know anything about the history of basketball, you'll know how important the state of Indiana has been to the sport, helping to popularize it (most notably at the high school level) in the early 20th century. Today high school basketball is as much a religion to the citizens of Indiana as high school football is to the citizens of Texas, and it was in these small towns that many of our favorite professional athletes began their careers, rallying around communities throughout the state who were so dedicated to the sport -- and to winning -- that they never really knew what it was like to lose.

Except in Medora.

Unlike the larger, more successful towns surrounding it, Medora, Indiana barely remembers what it's like to win. Not just at basketball, but at life. Like so many small American towns across the country, Medora was hit hard by years of economic turmoil. The two factories that essentially supported the town for decades have now closed, and many of its citizens are out of work. Businesses have packed up and moved elsewhere, and when you ask current Medora residents to describe their town, the only word they can come up with is "closed." But the one saving grace this town still has is its public high school -- one of the few public high schools that haven't closed and consolidated with other schools from neighboring towns. They have their school, their church and their basketball team, the Medora Hornets.

Except unlike all the other teams across the state of Indiana, the Medora Hornets cannot win a game... literally. When we meet this ragtag group of local misfits, they're coming off another 0-22 season and their coach, a local police officer, is scolding them for scoring zero points in the fourth quarter of a game they just lost by over 40 points. But this is routine for the Hornets, a team whose main goals for the season include not losing a game by over 50 points. They're laughable and looked down upon in every town except Medora, whose residents continue to believe in these boys primarily because they're all they have left to believe in. 

So can they actually win one game -- any game -- in the face of this much adversity?

Thus we have the documentary Medora, which, like the basketball team it features, is a tiny film swimming amongst much bigger movies at one of the country's largest and most influential film festivals. You probably haven't heard of it and you probably won't see many people writing about it, yet it quietly exists as what I feel is this year's most important sports documentary, and it might also be the best one too.

As we follow each member of the Medora Hornets, many of whom come from broken families struggling with addiction and poverty, you begin to realize just how important organized sports is for not only these kids, but for an entire town. And then you realize how one win -- one small, meaningless win -- can impact the rest of someone's life. It's powerful stuff, and while Medora is chock-full of humorous Bad News Bears-esque moments, the documentary is also a true tearjerker because these people are all of us. They're our neighbors, our cousins, our friends. And like you, they're just trying to earn their way past defeat.

Medora is a documentary about how being a loser actually makes you a better winner, and its message is one we desperately need to spread right now. Not just to our kids, but to their parents. Not just to people attending a film festival, but to anyone who watches movies, period. 

Medora may be about losers, but it's the true winner of this year's festival and a slam dunk to the heart of America. See it and it may just change your life (or at least give you a new basketball team to root for). 



Tags: SXSW 2013, Medora
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