Sports themed films and Disney always seem to have a winning formula. Each film from Miracle to Million Dollar Arm, has a meaning that steps beyond the sport and brings it to what lies within each team: heart. In McFarland USA, it’s the same formula but with a major addition: Latino culture. McFarland USA is the true story of Coach Jim White taking a group of Latino kids from the low income, farming community to win the State Championships in 1987 (and 14 more championships since then).
Recently at a press conference, Kevin Costner and the talented cast of mostly brand new actors, answered a few questions about the film, their roles and what it means. Read below for 5 Things To Know About McFarland USA
Sergio Avelar, who plays Victor Puentes , is actually from McFarland, CA, where the film is based.
Sergio Avelar: Honestly, it was just surreal. Coming from McFarland, everyone talking about how they’re gonna be making a movie, and it never happened. Then here comes Disney and a great director like Niki Caro to start the film process. It was just so surreal.
Director Niki Caro was inspired by the actual town of McFarland.
Niki Caro: I was inspired, simple as that. Not only and just by Jim White and the original team, and the scale of their achievement, and the legacy that left and the legacy that goes on, but I was really inspired by the people, by how hard they work, by the commitment to their families, their faith, their community. It was great for me to be able to light that up.
You drive to McFarland, you’ll see a bunch of people you see on-screen. It’ll look like it does on-screen. That’s deeply satisfying to me to, to go in and tell a story that is not only meaningful, but is true and real, and tell it with the real people. If that weren’t enough, to go in with the likes of these people, this has been a deeply, deeply satisfying experience for me and I hope it will be for the audience, too.
McFarland is more American than Apple Pie and baseball according to Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner: I’ve grown up in Ventura, and also in Visalia. I’ve driven down these roads. I saw people working in those fields. I played and fought and had friends where their families were, pickers in Saticoy, California, a little Mexican barrio school that I went to. I didn’t invest the way I did until Niki brought me this movie. Bending down to work and seeing a field go forever, understanding that this is forever, this is every week, this is every day in all kinds of weather, the appreciation of who these people are, this is as American story as you can possibly have.
You think apple pie and baseball’s American? No. McFarland is way more American than any of those things. Those are pastimes.
There is no more American story than parents who are willing to do anything to better their children, to give their children a chance. McFarland is not some weird little town, like oh, poor McFarland. Poor McFarland? No. Number one, there’s a mythology around McFarland because their lives changed when they understood that they could be champions, and repeat that idea. But the simplicity of, there’s nothing more noble than a father and a mother, making an opportunity for their child, knowing that their life is gonna be hard. There’s something very noble about that, to me; something incredibly heroic.
What makes a great sports film? “Don’t put too much sports in it”
Kevin Costner: If you want to make a great sports movie, don’t put too much sports in it. It’s the backdrop. It’s the environment. Bull Durham was about men and women, why they can and can’t get along and have to still be together.
I think in McFarland, I think Niki figured this out really, that yes, the running had to be authentic and the boys had to work hard. And the idea of going to that last meet, where these guys had been building themselves up, they look up and they see these big buses with these big schools and these really nice uniforms, and they start to shrink. They start to pull back. We weren’t going to let them fall back.
We were going to have them look these other boys in the eye, and know that they’re just as good, and in my mind, they’re better. That’s what the movie was about: that you’re just as good, and if you work harder, you can be better.
McFarland is a great story to represent Latinos in film
Carlos Pratts: I think for the longest time, we as Latinos have always, just in general want to see ourselves in a better light. And now we have that. This film shows us that. And everyone, I mean I think you look at a Jim White, he’s a part of it and everyone needs a Jim White. I just can’t wait to see more of it out there because Kevin and I are the same. I mean he’s got a lot more money, but you know. [Laughter]
The only difference is the color of our skin, and we came into this world the same and we’re gonna leave the same.
McFarland USA opens February 20th.