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Sundance '15: In Football We Trust

Year: 2015
Director: Tony Vainuku & Erika Cohn
Cast: Harvey Langi, Leva & Vita Bloomfield, Fihi Kaufusi
Country of Origin: U.S.
Rating: N/A
Time: 125 min.

High school is hard as it is just being a teenager, juggling grades, extracurricular activities and maybe sneaking in some romance in between but the pressures and expectations are held to a stress-inducing standard when you come from an ethnic family who's livelihood depends on your own success. In the spirit of Hoop Dreams, In Football We Trust follows the journey of four Polynesian high school students as they chase their life long and life-changing dream of attaining professional recruitments. Filmed over the span of four years, first time filmmakers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn chronicles these NFL hopeful's struggles and pressures to balance cultural and familial expectations in order to find an ticket out from gang violence and poverty. 

Set in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah, the film chronicles four teenage boys going through high school while facing the enormous pressures of carrying the burden of their dreams and their families, presenting a new take on the American immigrant story.  Despite their small population with a brief history in the U.S., Samoans and Tongans are 28 times more likely than any other ethnic group to play football for the NFL. Some refer to this phenomenon as a "calling" or a gift from god, crediting their genetics which are agreeably the epitome of a great football player. As much as their hefty attributes and build serve as their greatest strength in being a first-class candidate for football, their culture and familial obligations become their greatest motivation and downfall. 

Fihi Kaufusi, like many of the residents of Salt Lake are practicing Mormons deal with the common battle of cultural bond and environment influences of religion and relations. Without the support of his immediate family, Fihi struggles to outshine with unrelenting religious convictions and determination that inevitably does him more harm than good. Two brothers Leva and Vita Bloomfield who's family is affiliated with the most notorious gang in Salt Lake City, struggle to outshine their perceived reputation and not succumb to violence when confronted by peers as a teenage boy. Then there is the star, Harvey Langi whose name has already been circulating around the most prestigious football colleges, carries his family's livelihood on his shoulder as he is their golden ticket from poverty. These four teenage boys all share their passionate stories to succeed and discover the hard truths of growing up with an incredible amount of pressure to succeed and abide by societal expectations. 

Like Fihi says in the film that people don't know what Samoans are and think they're just big Mexicans, only further makes this film that much more special as we get such incredible insight and access to a knit-tight community that is rarely seen on screen. Even though I feel as though I am well aware of Asian cultures and communities, the Pacific Islander experience especially in a pre-dominantly Mormon and White town is an entirely unique experience that has yet to be shown. Polynesians are such a small group of minority, it is their will to thrive that propels them to work that much harder. But in moments of adolescence, and just growing up, the greatest challenge for these four NFL hopeful's is the arduous and sobering journey of the high stakes that come with trying to achieve your dreams all while flourishing out of their adolescence. In no time, they are faced with the harsh realities that maybe, Football it is not all it's cracked up to be. 

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