McFarland, USA, starring Kevin Costner, is a funny and inspiring movie based on the real story of Jim White, a football coach who, looking for new opportunities, moves with his wife and two daughters to a poor neighborhood in the County of McFarland in the state of California, populated mostly by Hispanics.
In this meeting of “cultures” we find a very interesting aspect of the movie. The Whites slowly start to get enchanted by a very different cultural tradition, full of spontaneity, joy and with a very strong sense of family and solidarity. Those are, without any doubt, characteristics of the Latin American idiosyncrasy and that most of the time, are relegated in the modern societies and in particular, in the United States.
The central focus of this story, however, revolves around the work of Jim as a high school physical education teacher, where he discovers the potential of some students for cross country running. With no experience coaching this sport, which the movie shows us as exclusive for schools with more funds, White and a group of students – at the beginning reluctant – embark in an entire sports adventure.
He will need to use cunning, motivation and creativity to overcome the obstacles that will present themselves. But most of all, he shall win over the students, each of them with their own problems and challenges. This film is set in 1987, and in that time McFarland was one of the poorest counties of the United States, and in White’s job it will be key to really understand the situation of each of the boys. This need will lead him even to work, like his students, in the huge fields of California.
With the guidance of White, in a sport where the individual victory and team effort are equally important, the boys will discover a new sense of friendship, solidarity, and, in particular, overcoming real and self-imposed limits. At the same time, White – and his family – will discover in McFarland a community experience and a sense of belonging as they never felt it before.
Even though the story has been told many times, McFarland, USA manages to successfully overcome the stereotypes to offer in a new way an entertaining story full of values and an important testimony about the individual effort and the necessity of bonds that join us with others to achieve goals.
That the seed gave its fruits can be seen by the end of the movie, when many of the students that participated in the cross country, which opened new horizons in their lives, returned as adults to McFarland to help their old school and encourage other boys like them, inviting them to dream of new horizons. This, without any doubt, makes this a story worth telling.
This post originally appeared on Catholic-Link.com and the author is Kenneth Pierce.
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