In Football We Trust

In Football We Trust

  • BY Tony Vainuku & Erika Cohn | IN Race & Ethnicity
    Premiered January 25, 2016

About the Film

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. MORE

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 (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 (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. LESS

Film Credits

Tony Vainuku

Producer and Co-Director
Erika Cohn

Executive Producers
Geralyn Dreyfous
Mark Lipson
Gavin Dougan

Ericka Concha
William Haugse, ACE
Ken Schneider

Director of Photography
Tony Vainuku

Justin Melland

Post Production Supervisor
Mark Lipson

Associate Producer
Caroline Nelson

Additional Camera
Jack Allred
Ana Breton
Erika Cohn
Tyson Maughan
Munn Powell
Jeff Rhoads
Bob Seaman
Brady Tuckett
David Westphal

Production Assistants
Ana Breton
Isaac Cole
William Cutting
Sage Knox
Rick Reynolds
Makelani Tuha
Monty Tuha
Teresa Uipi

Digital Post Finishing Facilities

Sound Supervisor
Gavin Dougan

Post Production Sound
Skywalker Sound

Re-recording mixer
Mark Berger

Sound Editor
James LeBrecht

Dialog Editor
Justin W. Walker

Sound Effects Editors
Jamie Branquinho
Bijan Sharifi

Assistant Re-recording Mixer
Stephen Urata

Mindbomb Films, Inc.

‘Anapesi Ka’ili
Christina Kwauk
Lisa Uperesa

Legal Counsel
Adam Hull
Victoria Cook

E&O Clearance
Donaldson + Callif

Distribution Services Provided by
Relativity Sports

Additional Music by
John Martin

News Articles and Archival Photographs Courtesy of
The Anderson Family
The Bloomfields
City Weekly
Daily Herald Media
Dasl*it Photography
The Deseret News
High Country News
The Kaufusis
The Langis
The Lotuleleis
Ronald Peck
The Salt Lake Tribune
Tim Sullivan
JT Thomas

Archival Footage and Audio Courtesy of
Jacob Berube
Mike Fraser
IMG Sport Video Archive
NBC Universal
Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., KTVX

Archival Footage and Television Clips
The Galt Family
KSL News
NFL Films
Main title statistics were compiled from the 2010-2012 American Community Survey

Licensed Music
“Wade In Your Water”
by Common Kings

Special Thanks to
The 2013 CPB Producer’s Academy
Lorraine Ashton
Brody Benson
Joe and Jon Bish
Jeremy Cohn
Ron Cohn
Tony Concha
Isaiah Coombs
Alice Elliott
Courtney Giles
Jared Hess
Joe Katoa
Mary Katoa
Josh Lowden
Rina Mackenzie
Yvonne Mackenzie
Reno Mahe
Chase Mansfield
Jesse Markham
Sarah Mohr
Anton Palepoi
Dustin Pearce
David Peck
Ben Pourrabbani
Tautua Reed
Babak Sakaki
Phil Tuckett
Paul Uipi
The Vainuku Family
The White Family
The Woodham Family
The State of Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development
The Utah Film Commission

In Memory of:
Baby Solo

Filmed on Location in Utah

Fiscal Sponsor
The Utah Film Center


Executive Producer
Sally Jo Fifer

Deputy Executive Producer
Lois Vossen

Supervising Producer
Amy Shatsky

Catalyst Foundation
Zion’s Bank
Utah Humanities Council
Daniel Johnson
Trevor and Leslie Larsen
Hazel Robertson
Naoma Tate
John Wunder
Christopher and Heidi Nielson
Angela Martindale
And others. A complete list available from PBS.

In Football We Trust is a co-production of IFWT Productions LLC, Idle Wild Films Inc., and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), in association with Pacific Islanders in Communication (PIC) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This film was produced by IFWT Productions LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

Copyright 2014 IFWT Productions LLC

All rights reserved.

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


  • 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?