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The new documentary “Medora” may be reminiscent of the 1986 film “Hoosiers,” but filmmakers say it takes a more critical look at the plight of small-town America.
“Medora” is a metaphor for the death of a small town, filmmaker Andrew Cohn said.
The documentary will premiere 7:30 p.m. Friday at YES Cinema.
Filmed during Medora High School’s 2011 basketball season, the documentary chronicles four players’ struggles on and off the court as their varsity team, the Medora Hornets led by Coach Justin Gilbert, fights to break its losing streak.
The Hornets’ struggle is a vivid reflection of Medora’s struggle.
The once-prosperous rural community of Medora is battling against a crippling economy, a dwindling population (which currently stands at an estimated 500 people) and school consolidation.
“The question becomes, what’s lost when towns like Medora fade away?” Cohn said.
Since the film first debuted at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March in Austin, Texas, it has received an incredible reception and become bigger than anyone anticipated.
Player Dylan McSoley, who graduated in 2012, described the experience of making the documentary as surreal.
“I didn’t even realize what was going on,” McSoley said. “At first, I didn’t think it was going to be this big. I thought it was going to be one shot and done.”
Some people have called “Medora” the anti-”Hoosiers” movie, Cohn said.
Released in 1986, “Hoosiers” is a tale of redemption that follows a small-town basketball team as it shatters its underdog reputation to become state champions.
Just as “Hoosiers” captured the essence of small-town life in the 1950s, “Medora” delivers a brutally stark picture of what small-town America is today.
Most people see small towns as thriving communities, but the reality is many of these communities have been struggling to survive for decades, Cohn said.
Coach Gilbert agrees.
“‘Hoosiers’ was more about the drive to a championship, to win,” Gilbert said. “‘Medora’ is about fighting to win and keep going, to survive.”
Although Cohn hopes those who see the film take a more critical look at the value of small towns, he hopes to reach young people who may be encountering similar challenges as those faced by the Hornets’ players.
“If some high schooler can watch the movie and relate to one of the kids and not feel alone, then I’ve done my job,” Cohn said.
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