Documentaries don’t get much more exciting or emotionally involving than “Undefeated.” The feature follows a Memphis high school football team who have a season that has to be seen to be believed. Directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin talked to Gold Derby about their experience making the film, which is one of the fifteen semi-finalists for Best Documentary Feature.
“Undefeated” is free of talking heads, instead playing as compellingly as a scripted drama like “Friday Night Lights.” Lindsay explains that he and Martin’s style is more organic. “T.J. and I are really interested in making documentaries where the action unfolds in front of the camera,” he says. Their plan was to “find a situation that has the potential for some dramatic conflict and just kind of embed yourself there.”
Lindsay felt it impossible not to be moved by their subjects’ hardships and triumphs. “We moved to Memphis for nine months to make this film and became so engrained into the lives of our characters that we did kind of feel the joys and defeats of the players … There were times I was crying while I was filming and there’s times where I’d film a game and they’d score a touchdown and the camera suddenly stops filming the action because I’m cheering.”
Their editing process was a year long with more than 500 hours of footage to sift through. It paid off in what Martin describes as the “pretty surreal” shortlisting by the Oscars. Alongside major names like Wim Wenders (“Pina“) and James Marsh (“Project Nim“), the newcomers may buck the odds as capably as the football team they profiled.
Check out the full interviews with the directors below.