November 6, 2016

Trophy Kids

Chris Bell, 2013
We have all probably been the uncomfortable witnesses to that parent at the middle school sporting event. The one that is way too invested in whats really supposed to be an innocent exhibition match for young people to learn the fundamentals of athletic competition. But there is that very small percentage of parents that have way too much emotion invested. Trophy Kids is their story. Or at least the story of four different parents in four different sports. Golf, Basketball, Tennis and Football to be exact. Chris Bell, documentary filmmaker been known for 2008's Bigger Stronger Faster, directed this film that really puts you uncomfortably close to these overbearing parents. Bell eases his way into it as well. At first you might consider the parents to not be so bad, you can see the passion but nothing too outrageous yet. But the layers of the onion are unpeeled, and by the end of the film you don't really have any good feelings about any of them.

The documentary focuses on four parents in four different sports. Golf, basketball, tennis and football. Each parents has their own disciplinary style. 3/4 are very aggressive and verbally demanding, classic authoritarian. The fourth (tennis mom) is more new agey, spiritual, more subtle. But they are all striving for one singular goal: for their kids to become superstar athletes like Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters.

This is clearly an environment built on a foundation of unreasonable expectations. These poor kids are missing out on basic kid stuff; playing with their friends or having girlfriends or boyfriends. Instead, they are forced to train for long hours. You are undoubtedly witnessing child abuse. Long, calculated, child abuse. These parents are despicable. They are narcissistic. They should be ashamed. Hopefully they will be. Hopefully they will look back on this film years from now and completely regret all of the unreasonable things that they said to their poor children. Its another film where you are impressed with the access and the unfiltered nature of it. Why would they be okay with this film being released portraying them in this light? It's this factor that makes this film a success. That Bell managed to be present with his cameras, and was able to capture this behavior in a natural setting. With natural emotions laid out. 

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