”Messwood” with Brad Lichtenstein & Emily Kuester


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Two schools, two neighborhoods, two vastly different worlds… one football program. When it became clear that Messmer High School and Shorewood High in Milwaukee would not have enough players to field their own teams, the two schools came together to form the Messwood football team. But playing together does not mean that the team’s young athletes aren’t immune from the systemic problems plaguing one of America’s most racially divided cities. Filmmakers Brad Lichtenstein (“When Claude Got Shot”, “As Goes Janesville”) and Emily Kuester (making her feature documentary debut) go deep inside the Messwood football program to craft an intimate portrait of the team’s players, parents, and coaches and explore broader themes of racial inequity, trauma, friendship, and love.

Ken sat down with Emily and Brad to discuss how the two Milwaukee-based filmmakers won the trust of Messwood’s dynamic Coach Davis and developed close ties to the players and their families. What was their response to Coach Davis’ position that race is a non-issue when it comes to his football team? How did Emily’s bond with one of the film’s main characters help this young man push through a difficult moment and yield one of the film’s most powerful moments? What was it like for Brad, a parent himself of Shorewood High students, to see things from a different perspective? In the fine tradition of “Hoop Dreams” and other classic sports films, “Messwood” opens a window into a wider world, one that extends well beyond the “Friday Night Lights”.

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