Last summer, the darling of Indy Film Fest was Medora, a documentary by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart about the losingest basketball team in the state. The film won the hat trick: Best Matter of Fact feature, Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize. It was also announced at the festival that Medora had been picked up by PBS's Independent Lens.
The filmmakers and subjects went on to tour the country with the film, stopping at about 20 cities in November and December, including a large crowd at the downtown IMAX. And 1.4 million people watched it on PBS in April.
Cohn was back in town Thursday for the fest's opening night. I spoke with both filmmakers by phone Friday.
“The tour was awesome because the kids were able to share their courage and resilience with audiences,” says Rothbart. “For them to travel with us and to see how much their story was inspiring other people was important. It was also fun for us to show them around New York and L.A.”
Rothbart and Cohn plan to eventually work on another project together, but so far have been supporting each other on their independent projects.
Cohn, along with local filmmaker David Yosha, worked on a project for ESPN about Little League pitcher Danny Almonte, who was revealed to have been too old for competition after leading his Bronx team to the World Series. That film will air in mid-August.
Cohn is also inThe New York Times article preproduction for a new documentary about adults working to get their high school diplomas. Like The New York Times article that sparked the filmmakers’ interest in Medora, another chance encounter with a news report is bringing Cohn back here.
“I had wanted to do a film about adult education,” says Cohn, who plans to start shooting the documentary this fall. “While watching NewsHour on PBS in New York, I caught a special about the Excel Center in Indianapolis, about how they are going out of their way to support students overcome their roadblocks outside of the classroom.”
Meanwhile, Rothbart is in the process of making a film based on an essay from his story collection, My Heart Is An Idiot, with Big Beach, the same production company that backed Medora.
Rothbart also has been working on a documentary about a boy and his family in Washington, D.C. Rothbart has been filming the family for 15 years — since the main subject was a child. And he continues his work on Found projects, including a musical opening in New York this fall.
“It’s been a great year and we’re grateful to the festival for being a launching point for the film,” says Rothbart. “We’re also excited to make new work to hopefully show at the film fest in the future.”
The filmmakers say they've recommended Indy Film Fest to filmmakers who’ve never been. “We could tell that the audience is made up of people who were truly passionate about documentary films, who were not there for the glitz and glamour,” says Rothbart. “At the Indy Film Festival, people are truly interested in great film. Those are the conversations you remember and appreciate.”
If you missed Medora or want to see it again, it’s available at medorafilm.com on DVD and streaming.