SXSW 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! An excellent documentary has to make its audience feel invested, even if the subject is unfamiliar or mundane. For instance, I’m not a big sports fan, but I’ve seen some documentaries that captivated me and made me feel like I could empathize with the drama and partake in the victories of the teams being documented. I have to be made to care about things I don’t already care about, and that can either be done by having exciting and likable subjects, magnificent cinematography, a relatable underlining theme, or preferably a combination of all of those things.
Produced by Robert Rodriguez, Hood River, directed by Steven Cantor and Jonathan Field, tells the story of a small-town high school soccer team from Oregon and their struggle to racially coexist and claw their way towards a state championship. It’s definitely pretty to look at, the beautiful dreary Oregonian weather makes for some breathtaking shots, but the guts and core of this story are made up of things we’ve seen in better films featuring subjects with far more charisma and likability. The poor way that some of the game footage is shot adds a rotten cherry on top of an already bland soccer-ball-shaped cake.
“…the story of a small-town high school soccer team from Oregon and their struggle to racially coexist and claw their way towards a state championship.”
Hood River Valley High School is home to the Eagles and their senior soccer team. The team is racially divided, on one side, you have the white and privileged; on the other, you have the poor Mexican kids trying to balance school and work life. Erik Siekkinen is the team captain and resident try-too-hard. We’re introduced to him as he does a healthy meal prep while criticizing his fellow teammates for preferring to eat twinkies and candy.
We aren’t given much insight as to what motivates him aside from a throwaway line about how both of his parents work leadership jobs, and he feels compelled to follow in their footsteps. It feels like hollow motivation. I’m sure Erik is a nice guy in real life, but the movie makes him out to be a major jerk. His pep talks and inspirational speeches feel so forced and condescending. The story arc the film tries to set him on is one of learning how to be a team leader, but in the end, it feels like he didn’t learn or earn anything.
"…the guts and core of this story are made up of things we’ve seen in better films..."