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Portrait Gallery: Eugene Martin, assistant professor of Radio, Television and Film

Eugene Martin

When Eugene Martin, assistant professor in the Department of Radio, Television and Film, decided to create a documentary about an inner-city girls’ soccer club that had played his daughter’s select team, he expected to spend six months shooting footage.

Those six months turned into three years as Martin met the players for the Anderson Monarchs Girls Soccer Club in Philadelphia, their parents and their coaches. Martin saw how the team excelled despite receiving no financial support from the city and practicing on a mostly dirt field that it shares with a football and a baseball team. In 2010-11, the Monarchs were ranked among the top 10 in the world for teams with players under age 12.     

Martin’s 76-minute film, The Anderson Monarchs, will have its Texas debut 2 p.m. Feb. 17 during Denton’s Thin Line Film Fest at the Campus Theater in Denton. Martin will attend and answer questions after the screening.  

What is your official title, and how long have you been at UNT?

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Radio, Television and Film. I have been at UNT for four years now. I teach directing, filmmaking, screenwriting and MFA documentary thesis. 

What is your academic and professional background?

I have a master of fine arts degree in film from Temple University. I have directed eight feature-length films, four of them narrative and four documentaries. I am a member of the Directors Guild of America.

What were the challenges in creating The Anderson Monarchs?

With 500 hours of footage, I had to decide which stories to highlight in the film. It soon seemed very natural to follow two of the youngest girls, who were 10 and 11 when I started shooting, and have them tell their stories in their own words. There’s no voiceover in the film — all of the words are from the players and their parents and the coaches. And even at young ages, the girls are conscious about what it means to be minority players in a mostly-white, suburban sport.

Who are the main characters?

Kahlaa Cannady is now 13 and goes to a magnet public school in Philadelphia for gifted children. She’s been on the team since age 6. In addition to playing soccer, she goes to a writing program every day after school and writes poetry and short stories. I included some of her poetry in the film.

Jlon Flippens is now 14 and is truly a prodigy. She won a scholarship to a private high school in Philadelphia and, after we finished filming, started playing on an Elite national club team. But she also enjoys being a kid and is in drama club and choir. Her mother likes to take her to practices and keeps her grounded.

What about the adults in the film? You had met the coach, Walt Stewart, when you were teaching at Temple University in Philadelphia and was coaching your daughter’s team.  

Because the coach and the parents of the players had known me as a fellow coach, it wasn’t hard to get them to talk to me. My approach in creating a film is to go to the adults first, then speak to the children.

Coach Walt is amazing. He’s very dedicated to the club and is almost universally admired by the Anderson Monarchs. He’s also a fourth grade teacher, and emphasis education. He regularly drives his players to practice and to games, since transportation is a problem for many of them.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

The last one, in October 2011, when the team visited the White House. Members of the U.S. Women’s National Team were there, and the Monarchs played soccer with them and with Michelle Obama.

What messages do you hope The Anderson Monarchs presents to audiences?

It’s a lot about social justice. The Monarchs want to be treated as any other team and have equal access to facilities and education for the players. But some teams decide to not play them after learning that their field is in the inner city.   

The film promotes the idea of making soccer available to all, and finding good players and bringing resources to them, instead of having them leave the city and play somewhere else. I showed the film to board members of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which has identified urban America as a primary area to develop the U.S. Women’s National Team programs. The Monarchs are a model for other potential soccer clubs not just here in the U.S., but around the globe.

What’s your next project?

My multi-media exhibition, “Beirut, Philadelphia,” opens Feb. 18 at UNT on the Square. Part of the project is a one-hour documentary that will be shown Feb. 28. I’ve been following two families for the film. I started in 2006, and it’s a 10-year project. I like longitudinal stories. 

- Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions

It's not possible to know everyone on a big, busy campus. So InHouse periodically publishes Portrait Gallery features to help us learn about our colleagues and their contributions to the university's success. Send suggestions for Portrait Gallery subjects by email to InHouse with "Portrait Gallery" in the subject line.)


Posted on: Fri 08 February 2013

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