Lighting up Netflix
From Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment comes this Rudy Valdez directed documentary piece that lights up a corner of Netflix.
Although Valdez's cinema verité style needs some adjustment for the first episode, without running commentary the viewer is left to discern the fates of two youth football teams and their supporting cast.
Every character in the game and on the sideline is working class black or latino. All players are involved in football as a means to seeking out a better life through further education, into high school and beyond.
More than Football
On the surface the program is about football. In reality we see a system built up around these kids that keeps them from thriving.
The coaching staff do everything in their control to create a disciplined, loving environment, built upon a working class spirit that wants more for the next generation.
High school draft days, team homecomings and trips to national competitions create the trappings of a big time football program and a can-do attitude amongst the community.
The series effortlessly reveals the personality of the players, yet highlights the many fears adult supervision has for these kids.
The Reality of Working-Class Brooklyn
Grounded in reality, it is clear the parents know education is the way out of the socio-economic and racial strait-jacket of the NYC boroughs, with football being a means to an ends in finding a better life. The coaches' emphasis is entirely on building the mindset that break social cycles, starting young.
The emotional centre of the piece is Coach Gawuala, a word for every child, who continues to lead his U9 team despite struggling for work and grinding each day to make something happen outside of football.
The struggles of Coach Gawuala are the working-class struggles of Brooklyn. In a wider context it highlights the identity crisis of race in the United States that is at play in marginalised communities.
So much opportunity yet the entrance fee is too high. The Saints are an antidote to that reality.
A feel-good must-watch on these cold dark nights.