by David Edginton
Earlier this week I was up in Auckland and had the pleasure of attending a screening of Red, White, Black & Blue at the Documentary Edge Film Festival. The film highlights the journey of two American youth rugby teams from their home in Los Angeles to New Zealand – the spiritual home of rugby. Ambassador Huebner blogged about the trip last year, which saw these forty outstanding boys and girls from the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) test their sport mettle against New Zealand’s finest youth rugby players on stops in Auckland, Raglan, Rotorua, Turangi, Wellington, Kaikoura, and Christchurch.
Red, White, Black & Blue was directed by our good friend James Brown, the multitalented artist and filmmaker who co-curated the artwork now hanging at the Ambassador’s residence as part of the “Art in the Embassies” program. James has worked in the New Zealand film industry for almost a decade now, and was the principle editor on Annie Goldson’s acclaimed film Brother Number One. In Red, White, Black & Blue, James uses the two teams’ journey to New Zealand to explore the personal growth that each player experiences through their commitment to the sport and to each other.
During their trip I went with them to a Wellington Hurricanes game and sat with Leodes Van Buren Jr. and boys team captain Asa Garrett, who both feature prominently in the film. In one of the most memorable scenes, Leodes talks about how he wants the world to view him, promising to make “responsible, successful, articulate and positive the words associated with my name.” I spent only a short time with these two outstanding young men, but I could tell that they were both natural born leaders, focused on deepening their knowledge of the game and helping their teammates realize their full potential in sport and in life.
During their stay in New Zealand, the boys and girls on both teams were outstanding Ambassadors for America, and tremendous rugby players. The drive, energy, and character of these young athletes deeply impressed me. Both teams competed well in the Christchurch Boys’ High School Rugby Club Rugby Festival, with the boys clinching the tournament championship with a heroic try-line defense in the final game against St. Bedes College as time expired.
The Documentary Edge Film Festival shifts down to Wellington May 8-19, and will feature screenings of Red, White, Black & Blue on May 11 & 14 at Reading Cinemas in Courtney Place, and also on May 18 at The Film Archive. You can get tickets and more information about the film here.