Film a Winner: “Go Tigers!”
the gridiron season kicks off, Kenneth A. Carlson’s “Go Tigers!”
scores a touchdown as a keenly observed non-fiction feature that’s
highly entertaining. While cheering for the team, the film also
offers a not-so-flattering view of Massillon, Ohio, a town obsessed
with football. Educators will be fascinated by how the school
system’s fortunes are tied to the team’s. Carlson, shooting over
the 1999 season in high-definition video, also uses a 1951 newsreel
to establish the town’s national football reputation.At the movie’s
start, the high school’s Masillon Tigers are getting over a horrendous
season and eager to restore their glory. But, there’s something
more at stake: clever intercuts contrast burly players at practice
and school officials on edge. Defeated three times at local polls,
high school officials decide to make one last effort to fund raise
through a school tax levy. If their efforts fail again, the school
district will be forced to make drastic cuts in services and personnel;
even coaches won’t be spared.
Now the 1999 Masillon Tigers realize the best way, in fact maybe
the only way, to garner local support for the tax is by winning
the season. The heat is on! Many of the stars are already feeling
the pressure of earning athletic scholarships.
Some players are profiled: the most interesting is a back defensive
end named Ellery Moore. Earlier scenes show him as an admirable,
charismatic African-American who views football as his passport
to college. So, it’s genuinely shocking when he reveals he’s spent
15 months in jail for a crime he later claims he didn’t commit.
The film charges head on into other sensitive issues. The audience
learns about players who are held back for a year so they’ll be
bigger and stronger and views underage drinking at a rowdy post-game
party. Especially vivid is the non-jock who complains about football
players breaking rules that govern other classmates.
Overall, however, the film sticks to documenting the triumphant
comeback of the team and uses terrific music to highlight their
plays. Few films have such a great upbeat ending. Everyone wins!
(102 minutes, R locker room language, released by IFC Films.)
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