On Sunday night, my sister’s family and I went to see Mc Farland, the new Disney Movie at the East Bethel theatre. I’ve wanted to see the move ever since I saw the previews. Mc Farland is a farm worker town. When I worked for the farm workers in the late 1980’s we talked about Mc Farland quite often. The town is a place surrounded by fruits and vegetables that are picked by farm workers who live in Mc Farland.
The movie is the story of how Jim White—played by Kevin Costner—was able to organize a cross country team at Mc Farland High School. The film chronicled the challenges that Costner faced in developing a team that ultimately won a state title in the first year of its existence. As a sports film the story is like Hoosiers or even Friday Night Lights.
But the movie was more than a sports story. At a deeper level the story illustrated the hardships that farm workers faced. Many of the boys on the team had to get up before school to go work in the fields. One of the best scenes in the film is when Costner joined the boys work in the fields. The literally back breaking work showed how much the students had to overcome just to be on the team. And it revealed to anyone watching the film an important reminder that the fruits and vegetables that appear in our grocery stores come with a lot of sweat labor attached to them.
And the story was about how Costner’s family came to appreciate the Latino culture of Mc Farland. One of the best scenes in the movie was when Costner—at the encouragement of the local grocer—threw a Quinceanera for his daughter. Many in the Latino community showed up with food and music and symbols of the tradition. Costner’s family felt at home because they were embraced by the townspeople. This was not a movie where a white savior came in to help the poor, Latino farm workers.
I shed a few tears at the end of the movie because the team won the State Championship. My heart was touched. But my appreciation for the movie went deeper than what my heart experienced. My head was touched because I saw an example of how people from different races came to respect and admire each other. Sure the movie was made by Disney, so we have to be careful about drawing too many conclusions about race. But the movie shared some possibilities of what can happen when people, despite their race, go out of their way to help each other.