Complete the phrase.
Football is to Texas as basketball is to…
Kentucky. Or specifically the 22nd-largest city in the state: Murray.
One of the friendliest places in the world (it’s documented!), it’s the centerpiece of “The Home Team,” one of the standalone shorts at this year’s AFI DOCS (showing with “When the Garden Was Eden”). It’s all about the incredible community spirit of its 18,000 residents, living on just under 10 square miles of land. They proudly claim one of the lowest crime rates in the state. They’ve got museums, parks, and sports. And when I say sports, I really mean the Murray State Racers basketball team. Just ask anyone, and Joshua Seftel, the film’s guiding force, does just that. Well, he is selective, but he does gather a nice cross-sampling, two brothers, a cute middle school teacher who sports an Amy Adams nose, the town paper’s sports editor, avid alumni (there appear to be no other kind), the players, the head coach. Fans. Family.
New York City-based Seftel has a long resume, although he works best on the documentary side of the fence; “War, Inc.” a failed feature he made in 2008, earned a Razzie nomination for Ben Kingsley as worst supporting actor. On the brighter side, his first film, 1991’s “Lost and Found,” exposed the plight of Romania’s orphaned and abandoned children. For the last five years he has been executive producing “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers” for NOVA/WGBH. “The Home Team” was nominated for a SXSW Grand Jury Award earlier this year.
Whether talking to the camera or caught on video with friends at the town’s various hangouts, everyone bleeds Racers blood. Deftly blending an array of interesting folk, some TV footage, headline pans, effective use of slo mo, and, or course, shots of the games and the crowd, you’re just about ready to move to Murray when the film ends. Kudos to Marc Vives for a nice editing job.