Director: Andrew Cohn & Davy Rothbart
Studio: Beachside Films
In their grim 82-minute documentary Medora, directors Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart lament the slow and excruciating death of some economically strangled American communities like Medora, Indiana. A somber, beautifully shot but rarely wholly gripping film which numbers Stanley Tucci and Steve Buscemi among its producers, it focuses on the town’s can’t-win-for-losing public high school basketball team, many of whose families have been beaten down by decades of unemployment, grinding poverty, drugs and alcohol, and splintered families. How does one storeowner describe Medora? “Closed.” With so little hope in sight, with defeat burned into their beings, these kids and their elders stoically struggle to find purpose and some sort of future. With rows of stores closed down, with the factories gone, their resilience and refusal to go under count as beautiful acts of defiance. There’s no denying how well Medora paints a bleak, sobering portrait of small-town life in Middle America, and it’s a story that can’t be told often enough, whether it’s the subject of a documentary or a setting and mindset of a feature film like Nebraska or Out of the Furnace. Unfortunately, the filmmakers aren’t able to probe deeply enough into the lives of the team members, their families and the Medora locals. Some may leave Medora bummed but deeply grateful that it isn’t their everyday reality. Everyone ought to leave Medora outraged.