IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST, a documentary about the rise of the Pacific Islander presence in the NFL, is shared by directors Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn. We talk to the filmmakers about capturing NFL recruitment pressure in the Polynesian community amidst gang violence, addiction, and poverty, in this special BYOD interview hosted by Ondi Timoner.
FILM INFO & GUEST BIO:
Despite a small population with a brief history in the U.S., Samoans and Tongans are 28 times more likely than any other minority group to play football for the famed NFL. Filmed over four years, filmmaker Tony Vainuku tracks the journeys of four talented Polynesian high school football players as they strive toward their lifelong, and potentially life-changing, goal of professional recruitment. Charismatic, passionate, and determined, the players' love of family is matched only by their love of this most American sport that seems to flow through their veins. Their speedy transformation from adolescence to adulthood in the high-stakes world of collegiate football is filmed with incredible access, shining a light on the extreme pressures to succeed that emanate from within the tightly knit Polynesian community, as well as from the outside. But gang violence, addiction, and poverty are a constant danger that can easily bring down a dream. Even with the best moms, siblings, and friends cheering from the grandstands, not everyone makes it to the big time.
Director Tony Vainuku comes from a culture of third world traditions and a family of athletes. He grew up playing sports, but football was the focal point for his community and for Tony throughout much of his youth. For many who share his Polynesian heritage, the sport had become a way of life. After high school, he spent some time in the corporate world before enrolling at Westminster College in Utah to study business marketing for the purpose of learning how to build businesses around his passions of creative directing, writing and filmmaking. After graduating with a B.S. in Business Marketing, Tony
founded a multimedia company called Soulprofile Productions, which specialized in creative directing, video web ads, music production and other promos.
Producer and Co-Director Erika Cohn grew up attending the Sundance Film Festival as a native Utahan, where she first began her career. Although her films differ in place and time, her fascination with religion and culture remain a recurring theme and her passion for social change the driving factor. In 2008, Erika traveled to Cambodia where she shot “Giant Steps,” a documentary about the reinstitution of art after the Khmer Rouge rule, which aired on PBS. In 2010, Erika associate produced the Frontline/American Experience series, “God in America,” a six-part historical series on our nation’s relationship between religion and politics. Erika has received numerous accolades for her work, including a Director’s Guild of America award for her film, “When the Voices Fade,” a narrative profile of the Lebanese-Israeli war of 2006, and recent admission into the CPB Producer’s Academy.
BYOD Full Episodes Playlist:
BYOD Short Clips Playlist:
00:01 Welcome to BYOD.
00:20 Introducing IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST directors Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn.
01:20 Polynesian culture, family, gangs, and NFL recruitment pressure.
06:10 Vainuku and Cohn teaming up and finding subjects.
08:10 Telling a well rounded story and cutting it down.
11:40 Distribution and release.
13:00 Thanks and goodbye.
13:25 Clip, IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST trailer.