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INDEPENDENT LENS: Medora

Airs Monday, March 31, 2014 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Medora Hornets: Dylan McSoley, Rusty Rogers, Robby Armstrong, Chazz Cowles.

In Indiana, where life revolves around high school basketball, what happens to a community when their beloved team can no longer win a single game? "Medora" follows the down-but-not- out Medora Hornets varsity basketball team over the course of the 2011 season, capturing their stories both on and off the court. Riding a brutal losing streak when the film begins, the team’s struggle to compete bears eerie resemblance to the town’s fight for survival.

Courtesy of Independent Television Service

Robby Armstrong, Chaz Cowles, Rusty Rogers, Corey Hansen, Dylan McSoley and Zack Fish.

Courtesy of Peter Leix

Assistant coach Rudie Crain with the Medora Hornets varsity basketball team.

Medora Hornets Video Game

Now’s your chance to put yourself in the high-tops of one of the Medora Hornets players by trying out this challenging old-school computer game, that lets you play a little one-on-one schoolyard hoops.

An in-depth, deeply personal look at small town life, "Medora" is also a thrilling, underdog basketball story and an inspiring tale of a community refusing to give up hope despite the brutal odds stacked against them. Directed by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart, "Medora" premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, March 31, 2014 on PBS.

Years ago, Medora was a booming rural community with a thriving middle class. But the factories and farms are now closed and the population has dwindled. Poverty and despair have moved in. The filmmakers traveled to the tiny town after reading a 2009 New York Times story about the struggles of the basketball team. The next fall, with the blessing of Medora High School and the local community, Cohn and Rothbart began to document a year in the life of some of the players and coaches.

The Hornets three coaches are all volunteers who hold down full-time jobs as a cop, a preacher and a stonecutter. Rusty Rogers, the six-foot, five-inch center, is virtually homeless due to his mother’s problems with alcohol, and lives with point guard Zach Fish in public housing. Shooting guard Dylan McSoley wonders whether he should reach out to his dad, a man he’s never met who lives in the next town over. Robby Armstrong, a farmer’s son, wants to be the first in his family to complete high school, while Chaz Cowles, arrested on a gun charge, does his best to stay out of trouble with the law.

Ultimately, "Medora" is a film about America, and the thousands of small towns across the country facing the same fight. As one resident observes, “Once we lose these small towns, we can’t get them back.”

Past episodes of INDEPENDENT LENS are available for online viewing. INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. "Medora" is on Facebook, and you can follow @MedoraFilm on Twitter.

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Independent Lens: Medora Preview

Above: "Medora" follows the down-but-not-out Medora Hornets, capturing the players’ stories on and off the court as they seek to avoid another winless season. "Medora" is an in-depth, deeply personal look at small-town life, a thrilling, underdog basketball story, and an inspiring tale of a community refusing to give up hope despite brutal odds stacked against them.

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“Medora’s Been in the Gutter”

Above: In this clip from the INDEPENDENT LENS documentary "Medora," we watch Chaz Cowles, one of the students featured in the film, bike around his economically devastated town and tell us about how hard-hit Medora has been in recent years. "Other schools don't expect nothing from us," he says. "Medora's been in the gutter."

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Medora Coach Keeps the Faith

Above: In this clip from the INDEPENDENT LENS documentary "Medora," we watch the struggling Medora High basketball team lose another game but get a pep talk from their coach, Justin Gilbert, about how proud he is and about how they do have talent. "We're gonna get better," he promises. "I'll never lose faith in you guys."

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