‘Undefeated’ a human interest story more than football story

lifestyle_entertainmentBy Sheena Barnett

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Coach Bill Courtney is quick to tell you that the Academy Award-winning documentary “Undefeated” isn’t about football.

“Undefeated” follows the beleaguered Manassas High School football team, a Memphis-based team that hasn’t won a game in years. When Courtney volunteers to coach the team, things turn around as he encourages the players to do their best both on and off the field.

“Football is a backdrop. It’s a human interest story,” he said in a phone interview with the Daily Journal. “When you get out of your comfort zone and you set aside preconceived societal notions, and you set aside self interest, and you work together for a common goal, amazing things can happen in everyone’s life.”

“Undefeated” screens tonight at the Lyric in Tupelo, thanks to Tupelo Community Theatre and Rotary Club of Tupelo.

“You think football builds character. It does not. Football reveals character,” Courtney says in the documentary.

The film won the Best Documentary Oscar in 2012. Since then, Courtney has allowed to share his success stories – both with the football team and with his lumber business in Memphis – with audiences.

Courtney will answer questions following the Tupelo screening, and he’s written a book, “Against the Grain,” that will be released in May.

“(The book) is an exploration of 14 tenents that I think are very important to our family, our society, our businesses, our politics, and if you had to sum it up, it’s that we can be a progressive, inclusive society without abandoning the core principals that got us here in the first place,” he said.

He’s happy audiences have enjoyed and found inspiration in the movie, which was directed by T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay.

“They caught lightening in a bottle that year,” he said. “They did an amazing job telling the story. People have flocked to it and it’s amazing that it’s still getting all that it gets. But it’s just my life.”

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LIGHTS, CAMERA…

What: “Undefeated” screening, and Q&A with Coach Bill Courtney

When: 7 p.m. April 10

Where: The Lyric, Tupelo

Cost: $8/adults, $5/students

Info: (662) 844-1935

Extra: The film is rated PG-13.