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Film fest's 'Medora' looks at state's worst hoops team

July 19, 2013

In Monday's issue of IBJ, I'll be highlighting some of the strongest selections at this year's Indianapolis International Film Festival.

But since one is screening Friday (i.e., tonight) in an unusual venue, I thought I'd tip my hand.

“Medora,” my favorite of the films I've seen so far, is a gutsy documentary about the losingest team in Indiana high school basketball. While most of the IIFF films are being screened at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, this one will be shown in the gymanasium of the Harrison Center for the Arts, 1505 N. Delaware St.

There are plenty of reasons for the Medora Hornets’ long streak of goose eggs in the win column, chief among them the fact that the Jackson County town has one of the few remaining unconsolidated schools in the state. With a senior class numbering in the dozens, it’s no wonder the team has trouble competing.

But to the filmmakers’ credit, this is not a movie where “Gonna Fly Now” is going to blast during a training sequence, inspiring the kids to greatness. Basketball blunders are only a small part of the problems facing Medora, which is representative of small towns across America where the disappearance of factory work left a population with a coin-flip choice of hopelessness or relocation.

The “Medora” filmmakers (including Found magazine creator Davy Rothbart) capture the humiliating games, yes, but also the limited choices, the petty crimes, the military recruiting, the family messes, and the awkwardness of being an adolescent in an environment where just doing OK is a remarkable achievement.

No, it doesn’t offer any answers—and its final few minutes try to make a case that the rest of the film hasn’t supported. But I can’t recall ever watching a sports film where I wanted so badly for a team to win—on and off the court.

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