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Parents' Guide to

The All-Americans

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Lovely documentary digs into football dreams in East L.A.

Movie NR 2019 97 minutes
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This immersive documentary shows the fragile status that sports grants to struggling students at rival East L.A. high schools -- and the important place their big game holds in the community. The students at Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools face long odds. Their families are poor, their neighborhoods crime-ridden; parents tend to be away working long hours, and there's very little money left over to pay for luxuries like college. The students themselves work after school -- we tag along with one who works at night restocking beer in a convenience store's refrigerator, while another works a full shift at a bakery to pay for his toddler daughter's needs. Some families are undocumented and live in terror of deportation, a fear that the filmmakers underline with excerpts of dialogue culled from conservative talk shows that talk about "illegals" and the need to "build a wall."

But on the field, players and coaches alike find glory. Cheerleaders scream for them, their classmates applaud, parents show up in school colors to cheer them on. And winning matters. "There's a lot on my shoulders," admits Roosevelt head coach Javier Cid. "We have to win for the whole community. I can either be a great coach if we win, or some might consider me the worst coach in America if we lose." As we watch the players going to class, finishing their homework, doing pushups and drills on the field -- working, working, always working -- viewers may begin to wonder whether the deck is too stacked against them for it all to matter. And yet players and coaches alike find satisfaction and glory in the effort. Assistant coach Alfredo Robledo works for hours to mark and line his players' subpar gridiron like a real NFL field; sometimes he says he's there working on it until the predawn hours. It takes a lot out of him. But when the players see the field looking so professional, it makes a difference. By paying respect to monumental and sincere effort, this documentary does, too.

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