As the saying goes, inspiration comes from anywhere and for the cast of Disney’s upcoming film “McFarland, USA”, they didn’t have to look far for that inspiration. In fact, all they had to do was turn to the real city and people of McFarland in Central California.
The second film that will be released this year under the Walt Disney Studios banner is another feel-good film, but as with most films of this type that get put out by Disney, the stories told are more than just entertainment, but inspirational.
“I was inspired, simple as that,” said director Niki Caro at the Los Angeles press conference. “You drive to McFarland and you’ll see the likes of many of the people you see on-screen.” Some of those people she mentions are the high school Cross Country athletes from McFarland High School who were inspired to live a better life that isn’t dictated by current statuses, but by fueled dreams.
For those boys, those dreams weren’t that of prestige and boastfulness, but hard labor and accepting what is with no hope for the better. Still, they were surprised that people (moreover people in Hollywood) would take notice and be inspired by them and their stories. “I’m glad that Disney portrayed us for who we really were. It’s exciting to know the whole world will now really get to see that,” Damacio Diaz, one of those now-grown McFarland High boys said.
Damacio and his fellow athlete’s story roots itself into what it was like to be a Latino living in the 1980s. Specifically in McFarland, California, that meant participating in the family work of picking in the fields and then going to school and then back to the fields again before heading home to rest a little before the cycle started all over again. “We hated it,” Damacio added. “But if it wasn’t for people like Jim White, we wouldn’t have shot for a better life.”
Academy Award winner Kevin Costner played the inspiring Coach White and he himself was inspired to take on the role because his own life crossed paths with the culture of McFarland. “I grew up in Ventura and I’ve driven down those roads and people working those fields,” he said. Through production, his appreciation for the culture and lifestyle of the boys and playing Coach White made his participating more meaningful. “That’s what this movie is about – that you’re just as good and if you work hard, you can be better.”
That was also the inspiration for Costner’s on-screen Cross Country team, who are also Latino, to run six miles and train hard to tell the story of the real McFarland team. “For the longest time, us Latinos we wanted to see ourselves [in the world] in a better light and now we have that,” Carlos Pratts who plays Thomas Valles, one of the McFarland athletes said.
Clearly, inspiration was all-encompassing for all those involved with making this film and it is their desire that you not just “feel good”, but appreciate a film that wanted to tell a real-life story in hopes that your life story might be inspired, too.
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Do you think McFarland is the All-American town Costner says it is? Do you have any places in the world that you think tell a story like McFarland’s? Share them and your thoughts in the comments.