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Medora: Rural America ‘Hoop Dreams’

Medora: Rural America ‘Hoop Dreams’
Medora: Rural America ‘Hoop Dreams’
Portions of "Medora" were filmed at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School when the Hornets visited the Eagles in 2010. Photo by Peter Leix/ (click for larger version)

Twenty years ago the film ‘Hoop Dreams’ followed a pair of hyped high school basketball players from poor communities seeking to become NBA prospects.
‘Medora’ takes a different route.
Kids from Medora High School don’t have the high basketball skill, but they are just trying to make it, in life.
During the recent months, the documentary ‘Medora’ by filmmakers Andrew Cohn (director, editor and producer) and Davy Rothbart (director and producer) has been released with national acclaim.
The pair led filming of the Medora boys’ basketball program, often times considered one of the worst teams in the state, for more than a year.
Inspired by a 2009 New York Times article chronicling the struggle of the basketball program, the pair of filmmakers from Michigan embarked on the town of Medora in 2010.
Opening the documentary with then-head coach Justin Gilbert, a police officer, howling at his team for scoring ‘Zero. Zero points’ in the fourth quarter of a narrow loss.
The documentary goes beyond the losses on the hardwood.
Players are profiled, dwelling upon their struggles off the court. While the film shows the substance abuse that surround families, discipline issues and learning disabilities, there is a look at teenage life in rural America.
Dylan McSoley deals with those troubles but is that typical high school student that is humorous, while teammate Robby Armstrong shows his big heart and ambitious dreams.
Rusty Rogers, the best player for the Hornets, deals with a troubled home life.
Not only does the documentary follow the stories of struggle and friendship among the players, there is honest insight from the community. A once-thriving town, Medora lost jobs when factories closed and offers few employment opportunities.
The fight to keep the school doors open, along with breaking a trend of losing games, is central to the film. Trying to stay strong is what the boys attempt to do, through the losses and through the struggles around the town of Medora.
The film offers parallels to what goes on in the country, even offering a glimpse of a President Barack Obama speech on the struggles of the middle class.
The film is honest. The players are honest as are the community members. Medora schools are all they feel is left in the desolate town, and they will fight to keep it just as the basketball team fights for the few wins they earn year after year.
Lanesville, a small school that plays in Class A alongside the Hornets, is shown at various moments in the film. Former Eagle Chris Gayhart knocks down a 3-pointer in the movie, while the lively purple-and-white student section cheers on Lanesville’s relatively easy victory over Medora.
Success against the Medora basketball team has come often for the Eagles. Medora hasn’t won a game against Lanesville since 1995-96, the last time the Hornets won nine games in a season.
Lanesville basketball players and fans will visit the small town of Medora for a game on Saturday, with a sense of what has been chronicled in ‘Medora.’ Similarly, Lanesville is a small town taking a lot of pride in not only its community, but its basketball.
A screening for the film will take place Tuesday in Brownstown (Jackson County Community Theater).
Streaming versions of the movie can be downloaded at along with opportunities to purchase hard copies and various other merchandise.
The 82-minute film debuted at the South by Southwest festival in the spring and has gained momentum throughout the country. A review in The New York Times said, ‘Gently affecting … a mournful Midwestern ballad. Sustained by Hoosier pride, the Medora Hornets ‘ like their town ‘ just don’t know how to give up.’