Sundance documentary launches Kickstarter campaign

Tuesday , January 13, 2015 - 9:38 AM

Scene from the Sundance documentary "In Football We Trust."

Contributed to the Standard-Examiner

SALT LAKE CITY -- “In Football We Trust,” a feature length documentary exploring the role football plays within the U.S. Polynesian community that is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an outreach and engagement program for the film.

Funds from the Kickstarter campaign will be used to ensure the film reaches a wide national and international audience, specifically in “new immigrant” communities and those with underprivileged youth.

Despite overwhelming obstacles, Polynesians are 28 times more likely than any other ethnic group to make it in the NFL. Some refer to this phenomenon as a “calling” or a gift from God; others credit genetics, socio-cultural influences, or the push and pull of global sport capitalism. “In Football We Trust” examines how football for many Polynesian families is thought of as the ticket out of poverty and gang life. However, as the film explores, this is often an unrealistic expectation.

First time feature filmmakers from Salt Lake City, Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn, were given unprecedented access to this tightly knit community. Over four years, these local directors were able to capture the high stakes world of recruiting, the nature of competitive athletics, the complexities of cultural identity, and the pressures of family responsibility.

“We created this film to shine a light on a very important cultural issue within these Polynesian communities,” said director Vainuku, the first ever Tongan American filmmaker at Sundance. “The young men we follow in the movie are dealing with some tremendous pressures as they juggle family, cultural, athletics and religious issues. This story is one that is relatable to many youth and communities throughout the nation, and we are committed to securing the funding needed to share this film with those audiences that will benefit the most by seeing it.”

The four players featured in this documentary are:

Harvey Langi - The second eldest of nine children and starting running back for Utah’s best high school team. He has scholarship offers to play football in nearly every top Division I school in the nation, but family expectations combined with early media attention ultimately lead to a crossroads.

Leva and Vita Bloomfield – These two brothers are struggling to live up to their father’s legacy, a former Brigham Young University running back who also founded the first Polynesian gang in Utah. Despite efforts to disaffiliate, the original family ties make it nearly impossible for the brothers to stay away from gang life.

Fihi Kaufusi - A two-way lineman who lives in his ultra-religious aunt’s crowded two-bedroom apartment with eight other children. Despite Fihi’s apparent talent, a terrible knee injury makes it difficult for Division I coaches to seriously consider his potential. As a result, he is faced with the decision of whether to give up the sport he loves in order to serve a religious mission.

In addition to the stories of these four men, the film includes footage and interviews with current and former Polynesian NFL players – Troy Polamalu, Haloti Ngata, Star Lotulelei and Vai Sikahema. The film follows the genealogy of Polynesian football; the “Utah pipeline"; and the profound ways their passion, loyalty and rituals have changed the game and the fan base of football.

“Our subjects were vulnerable during the most challenging times of their lives. Their trials and tribulations changed us as filmmakers and inspired us to continue providing a platform for stories like theirs,” said producer and co-director Cohn. “We hope that with the funds raised from this Kickstarter campaign, we will be able to show this film to youth across America who can learn from our subjects’ experiences and to parents who will better understand the pressure that their teenage kids are up against. In addition, we hope the film will create awareness about new-immigrant communities, Polynesian culture, and encourage viewers to confront their own expectations of the ‘American dream.’”