Keepers of the Game

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Keepers of the Game Movie Poster Image
Engaging sports docu addresses deeper societal issues.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 82 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A high school girls' lacrosse team forms on a Native American reservation and, by doing so, directly challenges deeply entrenched beliefs about gender roles. It also brings a sense of pride and dignity to a place where both have been in short supply. This documentary also shows the positive effects athletics and teams can have on an individual's sense of self-worth and work ethic.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As they start to form a lacrosse team at their high school, the girls on the team must endure the sexism and ridicule of the men of the reservation who hold a deeply entrenched belief that lacrosse is strictly a sport for men and boys. They also must contend with the deeply rooted racism of those outside the reservation, the day-to-day difficulties of life on a reservation, and personal problems such as depression. The community itself rallies around the lacrosse team when they discover that budget cuts to the school's athletic department mean they can't afford to field a female lacrosse team, and they work together to raise money to make it happen. Leaders in the community and within the high school work hard to ensure that their culture, traditions, rituals, and beliefs are acknowledged and celebrated.

Violence

A girl talks openly of her suicide attempts in the wake of witnessing her father's untimely death from falling off a horse. 

Sex
Language

Infrequent profanity: "s--t." 

Consumerism

The documentary is co-produced by the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation, which openly champions their efforts to fund high school athletics in the wake of school budget cuts. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Keepers of the Game is a 2016 sports documentary about a high school female lacrosse team that forms in the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory -- where lacrosse was born -- and, by doing so, directly challenges long-held beliefs about gender roles in their society while bringing a sense of pride and dignity to their struggling community. As it follows this lacrosse team, the documentary also directly addresses gender issues, cultural norms and stereotypes, and the deeply entrenched sexism within the reservation as well as the deeply entrenched racism outside it. The girls emerge as strong positive role models -- not just for Native Americans but for anyone interested in the transformative powers inherent in the spirit of athletic competition. The documentary also provides a broader context in which the traditions of the Akwesasne Mohawk tribe fight to protect their traditions, rituals, and history, both inside the high school and in the community at large. A girl talks openly of her suicide attempts in the wake of witnessing her father's untimely death from falling off a horse. Infrequent profanity includes "s--t." 

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Adult Written byDusty Fortyfives B. May 17, 2018

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What's the story?

KEEPERS OF THE GAME focuses on the sport of lacrosse, which is considered a sacred game in the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, where it was invented. There are many in the community who believe that it's "the creator's game" and, as such, is "just for men." Because of these traditions and beliefs, controversy ensues when a group of Native American teenage girls attending the public high school just outside the reservation want to start a girls' lacrosse team. The obstacles of the inherent sexism in the community is further compounded by the fact that the school district's budget cuts prevent funding for any new athletic teams, to say nothing of the inherent racism of the surrounding area (upstate New York, where their crosstown rival mascot is a caricature of a Native American). 

Is it any good?

This is a fascinating sports documentary that fearlessly tackles so many important issues at once. Maintaining traditions while still challenging outdated cultural norms, sexism, racism, history, sports, the importance of athletics in schools in a time when school budgets are being slashed -- all these are addressed seamlessly. What emerges is the portrait of a Native American reservation in transition, of a culture trying to balance its rich history and sacred rituals with a present in which gender roles are not so clear-cut and women will not take the subordinate roles of the past. 

Keepers of the Game also shows the power of sport to transcend and transform communities and individuals. The players themselves find inner strength in the face of so many societal obstacles and, by doing so, inspire so many other girls to join them, as their community -- once so eager to disapprove if not outright mock their attempts to play what has always been "just for men" -- rally around them and find a hope and optimism that has always been in short supply. So much is addressed in this wonderful documentary, it's sometimes easy to forget it's also about the sport of lacrosse. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sports documentaries. How is Keepers of the Game similar to and different from other documentaries centered on athletics? 

  • What are some of the issues this documentary addresses? How are these issues brought to light? Did you learn anything new?

  • What would be the challenges in conveying traditions while also showing the changes taking place in a culture and community? 

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