"Medora" — a documentary that could be described as the contemporary, real-life underbelly of "Hoosiers" — has started showing in a variety of locations around the country and has ties to the Elkhart area.
The film loosely profiles the small and struggling Southern Indiana town of Medora by way of profiling its habitually losing boys high school basketball team during the 2010-11 season.
The movie was slow in wrapping up production due to an initial lack of funding, but later gained steam and is inspiring positive reviews.
Ellyn Church, an Elkhart native, was one of the associate producers. She began her involvement in 2011 while she was still a student at Indiana University. Church was among those who provided camera work as well.
Further, tiny Medora High School is where former Jimtown basketball coach Jim Stewart spent more than a decade as coach and principal before leaving in 2003.
Stewart, 73, died last February. His many head coaching stops included the Jimmies from 1968 to 1972.
His time at Medora directly preceded his final stop at Crothersville, which stretched from 2003 to 2009.
Since Stewart left, Medora (located about an hour southeast of Bloomington) has had five head coaches over 10 years.
Over the last five seasons, the Hornets have gone 10-94, and they’ve beaten fellow IHSAA member schools just twice in that time, typically collecting their wins against tiny Christian schools.
The movie’s trailer is more than enough to tell you that the basketball itself is woefully bad, but, of course, the film is trumpeted to be about much more than that.
"Years ago, Medora was a booming rural community with prosperous farms, an automotive parts factory, a brick plant, and a thriving middle class," according to a passage on the film’s website. "The factories have since closed, crippling Medora’s economy and its pride. The population has slowly dwindled to around 500 people. Drug use is common, the school faces consolidation, and as one resident put it, ‘This town’s on the ropes.’"
The passage continues: "‘Medora’ follows the down-but-not-out Medora Hornets varsity basketball team over the course of the 2011 season, capturing the players’ stories both on and off the court. The Hornets were riding a brutal losing streak when we arrived, and the team’s struggle to compete bears eerie resonances with the town’s fight for survival. ‘Medora’ is an in-depth, deeply personal look at small-town life, a thrilling, underdog basketball story, and an inspiring tale of a community refusing to give up hope despite the brutal odds stacked against them. On a grander scale, it’s a film about America, and the thousands of small towns across the country facing the same fight. As one towns-person told us, ‘Once we lose these small towns, we can’t get them back.’"
For the record — despite the website’s inaccurate mention of a 44-game losing streak at the time of the filmmakers’ arrival — Medora did suffer a 37-game losing streak from midway through the 2007-08 season until early in the 2009-10 season, but did win two games in 2009-10 before losing its last 10 that season and first nine in 2010-11, ultimately finishing 2-19 during the season that is chronicled.
The film is directed by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart, who have roots in Ann Arbor, Mich., and were triggered to make the movie by a 2009 New York Times article.
The project gained a couple Hollywood heavyweights when Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci came aboard as executive producers.
The film’s website includes the movie’s trailer, reviews, a screening schedule and more.
No screening is listed for the Elkhart area at the moment, but screenings do include Nov. 12-17 in Muskegon, Mich.; Nov. 21, 23 and 24 in Bloomington; Nov. 22 in Indianapolis; Dec. 12 in Ann Arbor; Dec. 13 in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Dec. 14 in Fort Wayne; and Dec. 15 in Kalamazoo, Mich.