In Football We Trust

In Football We Trust

January 25, 2016

by

Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn

Before these prospects can gain football fame and fortune, they must contend with gang violence, drug abuse, and poverty.

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About the Documentary

In Football We Trust transports viewers deep inside the tightly-knit and complex Polynesian community in Salt Lake City, one of the chief sources of the modern influx of Pacific Islander football players to the NFL. Shot over a four-year period with intimate access, the film follows four young men striving to overcome gang violence and near poverty through the promise of American football.

Despite overwhelming obstacles, Polynesians are 28 times more likely than any other ethnic group to make it to the NFL. Some refer to this phenomenon as a calling or a gift from God; others credit genetics, socio-cultural influences, or the push and pull of global sports capitalism. Many Polynesian families have come to view football as their ticket out of economic hardship and gang life, only to discover bitter disappointment when their expectations fall short of reality.

Featuring interviews with current and former Polynesian NFL stars Troy Polamalu, Haloti Ngata, Star Lotulelei, and Vai Sikahema, In Football We Trust reveals how making it to the NFL is like winning the lottery: the odds are discouraging but the payoff can be irresistible.

The Filmmakers

Tony Vainuku

Tony Vainuku (Director) comes from a culture of Polynesian traditions and a family of athletes. His first career aspirations began on the field as a promising football player in Salt Lake City. After high school, he spent time in the corporate world before earning a B.S. in business marketing from Westminster College in Utah. Vainuku founded Soulprofile Productions, a multimedia company specializing in the creation of web ads, promotional video content, and music production. In 2011, Vainuku founded and launched Soulpro, a lifestyle apparel brand.

Erika Cohn

Erika Cohn (Producer and Co-Director) is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning director and producer who Variety recognized as one of 2017’s top documentary filmmakers and was featured in DOC NYC’s 2019 “40 Under 40.” Most recently, Erika completed The Judge, a Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated film about the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Shari’a courts, which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and will be broadcast on PBS’s 2018 Independent Lens series. Erika co-directed and produced In Football We Trust, an Emmy award-winning documentary about the unique faith and culture that ultimately drives young Pacific Islander men into the NFL, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS’s 2016 Independent Lens series. In 2013, Erika founded Idle Wild Films, Inc., which has released three feature documentaries and produced numerous branded content and commercial spots, including Gatorade’s Win from Within series, for which she received a 2016 Webby award nomination.

Full Credits

Awards

  • News and Documentary Emmy Award

    Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary

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These young men see football as a ticket to a better life, but at what cost?

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