Playing in the U.S. Documentary competition of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Running time: 110 minutes. Next screenings: Thursday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m., Redstone Cinema 2, Park City; Friday, Feb. 1, 8:45 a.m., Library Center Theatre, Park City; Saturday, Feb. 2, 3 p.m., Salt Lake City Library Theatre, Park City.
The notion that small-town life often revolves around the local high school, and in particular that school’s football team, isn’t a new revelation, but the absorbing documentary “Pahokee” captures that truism with a clear eye and stunning imagss.
The movie chronicles the senior year for the class of 2017 at Pahokee Middle High School in Pahokee, Fla., an agricultural town on the banks of Lake Okechobee. Directors Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan follow four students over the year:
• Na’Kerria, who is on the cheer squad, works nights at a chicken joint, and who is determined to won the beauty pageant of Miss PHS.
• Jocabel, who aims to get into a good college after graduation, likely one that would take her away from her parents, who moved to the United States when Jocabel was 3 years old.
• BJ, one of the stars of Pahokee’s football team, the Blue Devils, who’s hopeful he will land an athletic scholarship to college.
• Junior, a drum major and single father who dotes on his baby girl.
Ivete (who’s also the film’s editor) and Bresnan’s also the cinematographer) uses a Fredrick Weisman-style verité approach, trying to be unobtrusive and letting events unfold as they happen — including a seemingly gang-related gunfight near a public park just after an Easter egg hunt.
Meanwhile, true to the modern sensibilities, the movie also includes FaceTime clips in which the movie’s four protagonists reveal their younger selves directly to the camera. Those exchanges expand the film’s range, past what the filmmakers can see in the field to open a window to what’s on their minds.