“Champions can come from anywhere.” The film’s tagline is plastered all over posters, billboards and previews.
In “McFarland USA,” champions come from a place Americans often overlook or refuse to acknowledge…the fields and farms where undocumented workers pick their food.
Written and directed by Niki Caro, “McFarland USA” is based on the true story of Jim White, portrayed by Academy Award winning actor Kevin Costner (The Untouchables, Waterworld), who finds himself in a rundown Southern California town taking a physical education teaching position at a high school.
After taking notice of his students’ running capabilities, White forms a ramshackle group of runners and seeks to form a cross-country team. With no cross-country experience himself and his personal struggles in the predominantly Latino town, White takes interest in his students lives and learns that these students aren’t just students.
These students are migrant workers who wake up before dawn and pick fruits and vegetables before running to school and running back to the fields afterwards only to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
White is teaching these boys that they are more than just pickers. He shows them that they are capable of more than they could imagine. He takes these boys from pickers to runners and forming a strong bond. “McFarland USA” is a film worth watching.
So often we hear conversations about what our food is made of and whether it’s organic or not. We talk about how to prepare it and critique it’s taste. But, we never really hear conversations about how our food actually was taken from the ground, the vine, the branch and put into boxes so it could be shipped off to our grocery market.
Little attention is paid to the modern day slavery that is food picking. We’d like to think that ended with the emancipation of African-Americans in the late 1800s, but it never stopped and to this day, there are men, women and children picking multiple mile wide fields in the southwest and across the country for mere pocket change.
With a late February release, one can only hope that for a film as great and important as it is, that “McFarland USA” will do well and reach a wide audience. The film also comes off the heels of 2014’s inspirational drama “Unbroken” and it’s drawing pre-conceived comparisons to 2009’s “The Blind Side”.
Costner’s sports films have done remarkably well. It might help that his passion for sports, including his love for Cal State Fullerton’s baseball team, has emblazoned his heart and naturalizes his performance.
“McFarland USA” is a film that had screening audiences clapping, cheering, laughing, crying and fully engaged in the film.
It’s a drama with just enough humor to keep the audience enticed, but the laughs do not overpower or take away from the message of the film. It is the epitome of an inspirational film and a highlight film of 2015.
You can catch “McFarland USA” in theaters Feb 20.
Rating: 5 Stars
Watch the trailer here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74eJaVQFybI