Documentary , 87 minutes, not rated, Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, Violet Crown, 2 p.m. Thriday, Oct. 16, Violet Crown, 2.5 chiles
There are fewer 250,000 Samoans and Tongans living in the United States, yet they are 28 times more likely to play in the NFL than any other ethnic group. This “Polynesian pipeline” to the NFL represents a glimmer of hope to young men and families in their underserved communities. It’s a little bit like basketball is to African-Americans or baseball to Latin Americans in similar communities: The odds of making it to the big time are great, but enough people have succeeded at it — most famous among Polynesian football players is former Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu — that it looks like a viable way out of a hopeless economic situation.
In Football We Trust is a documentary in the style of the iconic 1994 film Hoop Dreams. It follows several Polynesian teenagers in Salt Lake City as they attempt to achieve their goals of making the NFL. Harvey Langi, Fihi Kaufusi, and brothers Leva and Vita Bloomfield are the four players who finish up their high school careers while fielding scholarship offers, coping with injuries, fighting temptation from local gang life, and facing the possibility of taking part in a religious mission. They’re all winsome kids — the Bloomfield brothers have beaming smiles, good natures, and a teenage awkwardness, which betrays their age.
Unfortunately, their stories are all compressed into a fairly brief running time. The football narratives quickly feel too much like subplots, crowding out the boys’ more interesting social and family lives. The Polynesian communities in Salt Lake City — brought there by Mormon missionaries going back more than 150 years — represent an intriguing world that few people know about, and the film is most fascinating when it explores this. The fact that we spend so much time watching people run around on a football field that could be anywhere is a shame. The production values are very strong, but the movie doesn’t stand out in a crowded field of sports documentaries. One hates to say this about someone else’s life story, but at least in film form, this is all ground that we’ve covered before.