Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2018 5:18 pm 
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A dedicated young coach takes a failing high school to the state wrestling finals in Alabama

This crackerjack doc tells the life story of Huntsville, Alabama's J.O. Johnson High School wrestling team, especially wrestlers Jailen, Jamario, Teague, and Jaquan, with Chris Scribner, the coach. The school has been failing. The team has been dormant for years, but this season it seeks to make its way to the state championship. Scribner (Scrib), also a Social Studies teacher, is a strong motivator. They are hungry.

Jailen is highly motivated and defines himself by his medals. Jaquan's mother thought wrestling was a "white" sport; "I have a white son in a black body." Teague is white. He is on four meds but doesn't take them. Jamario (Mario) is hung up on his girlfriend. Their dramas mess him up and Scrib has to come and get him from his house for their first big tournament.

First big tournament is sketchy but Scrib says it's first time in 3 years he's felt he's coaching a real team and they're going all the way to state finals. Going into a match, they say the Serenity Prayer. Scrib is in recovery, he, like Teague, used drugs chronically when he was in high school. The boys fight big obstacles like emotional breakdowns, racial profiling by the police, teenage pregnancy, and the temptations of drugs.

They made it to the state finals. Two won, two lost. All went on to college but Teague, kicked out of rehab. Scrib coached another year, then went to Vanderbilt to law school. The high school, after years on the failing list, was shut down and turned into a training place for local police. So it goes.

The doc has a strong soulful soundtrack. The matches are exciting. This is a very well edited film with strong material, equally rich in the coming-of-age, personal, social, and sports aspects. It winds up being as much about coach Scrib as the boys, but the personal details are about the boys, not him.

Wrestle, 98 mins., had its World Premiere in the Global Visions section of the San Francisco International Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review.

Alabama news article about the film.
Earlier story about Scribner's reviving of the high school team.

Friday, April 6, 2018 at 8:30 PM -- Dolby Theatre/PREMIERE SCREENING
Monday, April 9, 2018 at 6:00 PM -- The Roxie Theatre
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 3:00 PM -- SFMOMA

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