There’s nothing wrong with the occasional sugary-sweet, inspirational sports flick about triumphing over adversity and all that optimistic American stuff. I mean, life’s tough and the world’s deeply unjust, but once in a while it’s perfectly OK to get all teary-eyed about the tenacity of the human spirit, right? What better place to turn when you get that itch than the Chicago-based documentary production house that brought the world feature docs like Hoop Dreams and The Interruptors?
It turns out we’re in luck, because the latest production from the powerhouse Kartemquin Films follows a group of female athletes in an overwhelmingly Hispanic Chicago high school struggling with limited resources and institutional neglect. Directed by Peabody Award-winning social documentarian Maria Finitzo, In the Game shows us an environment where opportunities are few, support is almost nowhere to be found, and discrimination and poverty are the norm. Within this otherwise pessimistic panorama, there is one coach who is deeply committed to his athletes, and inspires his group of 40 female athletes to strive for more despite the numerous obstacles they face.
The feature is shot in fairly conventional documentary style, but moves agilely between the world of urban education and public policy, the soccer field, and the home lives of a few emblematic subjects who put a human face on the issues. Overall, In the Game promises to be a worthy addition to Kartemquin’s catalog and a thoughtful reflection on race, gender, and poverty for general audiences otherwise uncomfortable with this sort of heady subject matter.