Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
It started with a brief mention on local news radio: A high school football game in East Los Angeles was expected to draw more than 20,000 people.
The number shocked longtime documentary film editor Billy McMillin, given that he’d never been to a high school football game that drew more than 200 people.
The game, of course, was the East L.A. Classic, the annual rivalry game between Garfield and Roosevelt high schools that began in 1925. Fans from the two schools annually fill East Los Angeles College’s Weingart Stadium in Monterey Park to its capacity of about 25,000 people.
“It was remarkable to me that a game that is so widely known in the community, one that galvanizes the community, could be completely nonexistent outside the area,” McMillin said.
So McMillin sought to capture the game and the people who make it “the biggest high school football game west of the Mississippi” in his documentary “The Classic,” which debuted yesterday as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival.
The documentary is centered around the 2014 Classic and follows four students and their struggles both on and off the field.
For Garfield Bulldogs coach Lorenzo Hernandez, the film won’t just be exciting for the players and coaches.
“I’m more excited for the communities of East L.A. and Boyle Heights and to see both communities on the big screen,” Hernandez said. “That in itself is the most exciting part of this whole deal.”
While the film was always meant to depict the lives of four teens from the largely Latino eastside, McMillin conducted another round of interviews with the young men after the inauguration of President Donald Trump – who described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals during his campaign – to ask their opinions of the president and the election. While the resulting changes to the film were minor, he said, they were important to challenge the “divisive rhetoric” surrounding immigrants today.
“The issues of immigrants and demonizing immigrants have been around long before Donald Trump and will be around long after,” McMillin said. “But at least a film like this has a chance to cool tensions and give people broader insight into who these people are.”
Hernandez agreed, saying the athletes’ work ethics and willingness to give of themselves would be on full display.
“This is what our community needs, to show the nation the caliber of kids we have and the community in which we live,” Hernandez said.