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Documentary 'Medora' follows high school basketball team and community in small, southern Indiana town

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What: The gritty film “Medora” focuses on the struggles of the high school boys basketball team and residents in the small southern Indiana community of Medora. A Q-&-A session with the filmmakers and some of the players and residents will follow the film.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cinema Center, 437 E. Berry St.
Cost: $8, general admission; $6.50, students and ages 66 and older.
Information: 426-3456

Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 12:01 am

A basketball team that has been generating some buzz will be in town Saturday, but you won't be able to sit courtside to see them. They'll be on the screen at Cinema Center.

Set in the same part of southern Indiana that gave you the 1986 feel-good film “Hoosiers,” the documentary “Medora” focuses on the Medora Hornets, a small-town team battling a long losing streak against larger, consolidated schools.

It's also a story about town residents and their struggle to survive and to keep their community from dying.

“It's rough,” said Dennis Donahue of Fort Wayne, who with his wife, Judy, invested money in the film through a Kickstarter online fundraising campaign to help finance its production. “It's not feel-good. … But it's got a really nice silver lining.”

The Donahues, who are big Indiana University and high school basketball fans, received Kickstarter associate producer credits on the film. They were impressed by the determination and passion shown by the film's directors, Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart.

Cohn and Rothbart grew up together in Ann Arbor, Mich., Cohn said during a telephone interview.

Though Cohn now lives in New York and Rothbart in Los Angeles, they still collaborate on projects, such as the magazine Found, which consists of letters and notes found on the ground.

They saw potential for a great documentary when they read a Nov. 27, 2009, New York Times story about the struggling town of Medora and its boys high school basketball team, which was 0-22 the previous year and hadn't had a winning season in decades.

They drove down to Medora, a community of about 500 people 30 miles southeast of Bloomington, and liked the possibilities, Cohn said. They sublet their apartments, moved to the area for more than eight months and shot more than 600 hours of film.

It took a little time for people to open up to them, but the players and townspeople eventually did.

One thing he learned, Cohn said, is that if you approach people with genuine interest and sincerity, they will tell you their story.

He, Rothbart and their crew since have edited their footage into a 1-hour, 22-minute film.

“It really is a personal, gritty and intimate look at these kids' lives and how it came to be,” Cohn said.

They have shown the film at more than 30 film festivals. They held premieres Nov. 7 in New York and Los Angeles for its release to theaters. It also is scheduled for a showing March 31 on the PBS TV program “Independent Lens,” it says on the Public Broadcasting Service's website,

Cohn, Rothbart and a few of the Medora basketball players and residents plan to attend the screening at Cinema Center. They will hold a question-and-answer session after the film, Cohn said, and possibly stay for informal chatting.

“The most gratifying thing for me,” he said, “is hearing from the kids and their families that we got it right.”