SALT LAKE CITY -- The Polynesian community is big on football, and there's no doubt they turn out impressive talent to the NFL. For many players, the journey to the NFL is their way out of poverty and drugs, and that's the focus of a documentary with local ties being featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The documentary "In Football We Trust" follows four young Polynesian high school football players in Utah, who are all focused on one goal: Making it in the NFL. The players are Harvey Langi, Leva and Vita Bloomfield and Fihi Kaufusi.
For the past five years, local filmmaker Tony Vainuku captured their journey. The teens face mounting pressure from their culture and family to succeed, as an NFL career would be their ticket out of a life of poverty and gangs. According to a press release from filmmakers, Polynesians are 28 times more likely than any other ethnic group to make it in the NFL.
"Their parents expect them to play in the NFL, at the cost of everything else," one man says in the film.
FOX 13 News’ first featured the documentary in December, click here to see the trailer for the film and for details on the four local athletes it follows. The Bloomfields are among those athletes.
“I knew football was going to be the way out,” Vita Bloomfield says.
Leva Bloomfield added, “Football means a lot to me. That’s the only time I can hit someone and not get arrested.”
Vainuku said he felt this is an important story worth sharing.
“We're here in America trying to survive, and trying to really grow in this country, so I wanted to tell the story behind that--but I also had my producer and co-director Erica Cohn that was right there with me and was able to give a broader perspective to it, so it wasn't just so closed in on what I thought was important.”
Vainuku also highlights successful Polynesian athletes who have made it to the top, like Vai Sikahema and Haloti Ngata, but he urges teens to remember that a contract to play football isn’t the only definition of success.
“Football is great, and I think it’s something that could be used very positively, but hopefully people will understand that we shouldn't put all our eggs in that basket,” he said. “There's so much to us as Polynesians to grow and so much more to our culture and who we are.”
The Friday night premiere at the Grand Theater in Salt Lake City is already sold out, as are the other two showings scheduled for next week.
Vainuku said he is grateful Sundance is giving him a platform to share his story and hopes to open doors for the Polynesian community.
"I hope that they're inspired and that they understand--that they walk away with understanding of our youth, of what we go through as a culture," Vainuku said.
For more information about the film, click here.
For more information about Sundance Film Festival, including scheduling and ticketing information, click here.
To donate to their Kickstarter campain, click here.