The 2015 L A Film Festival Review: “In Football We Trust”



By; Vernon Nickerson

For the love of the game or for the power and fame? This is one question directors Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn address by telling the stories of 4 Polynesian football players struggling to overcome gang violence and poverty in a world where a contract to play football in the NFL is the only endgame in town as depicted in the documentary “In Football We Trust.”. The film even has a cocktail party piece of trivia: Tongan and Samoan male youth are 78% more likely to have a career in professional football then any other people group. Although we never see the events that brought the 4 different families from the South Pacific to the rugged mountainous terrain of Utah, what we do see makes for a feature-film worthy saga of 4 adolescents raised solely to become professional football players.

As the story, filmed over a five year time span, plays out, no pretense about high school or college football producing scholar athletes is made. From the high school coaches, to the parents and siblings, to the college recruiters, we are introduced to a world where winning isn’t everything, winning is the ONLY thing. In this world, failure can have life-altering and or tragic consequences. There is absolutely no room for Ralph Waldo Emerson or his immortal dictum, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

The dollar value of football scholarships is printed on life size flip charts by one parent to illustrate how much her son would be giving up by losing his eligibility to play high school football because of bad choices. In another scene a high school ‘football mom’ dons face paint and a tuto to become a cheerleader for her sons team. After the game, this parent and her children become groundskeepers in order to defer some of the cost of raising a high school football prodigy.

So, which students will achieve their NFL dreams? Which students goals will change over time? Will any of the four principles survive the grind of seeking NFL glory?

My hope is that you will see this 87 minute gem of a film to have these and other questions answered to your own satisfaction.

“In Football We Trust.” screened at The 2015 Sundance Film Festival and The 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival. To find out information go here.


 In Football We Trust  87 min

Directors: Tony Vainuku, Erika Cohn