'F(l)ag Football': Film Review

Courtesy of Steve Dong Lee
Doesn't score a cinematic touchdown.

Seth Greenleaf's documentary follows several athletes as they prepare for the National Gay Flag Football Championships.

Suffering from a profusion of clichés generally associated with documentaries about straight athletes, Seth Greenleaf’s film about gay flag football players ironically demonstrates just how far we’ve come in terms of equality. A profile of several players and a chronicle of the lead up to the 2012 “Gay Bowl” in Phoenix, Arizona, F(l)ag Football reveals that gay athletes can be just as dull as straight ones when they become the subject of documentaries.

Not that there aren’t significant differences, as illustrated by the footage of a drag show put on by a team in the gay league to raise money. The doc also insightfully examines how the players often struggle to reconcile themselves with football’s macho culture. “Gay doesn’t reside in the same camp as that image,” one of them observes.

In its more standard-issue sequences, the film includes interviews with many of the athletes in which they discuss such topics as their coming out and their attitudes about the sport. Among the more colorful subjects is Wade Davis, a former NFL player who proves no less competitive in his current position than when he was playing in the pros. Equally interesting is Cyd Ziegler, a journalist and gay activist who created the National Gay Flag Football Championship in 2002. He led the New York Warriors to three championships before moving to Los Angeles and competing against his former team as captain of the LA Motion. But these two men’s contributions to the doc are limited, and after a while even they become wearisome.

Intriguingly, only a certain percentage of the teams’ makeup has to be gay in order for them to qualify to play in the league, which leads to such amusing digressions as one of the straight players proudly owning the “gayest dog.” A rancor-free match between a gay and straight team illustrates that when it comes to sports, it’s possible for sexuality to assume less importance than athletic prowess.

But despite its interesting observations and perspective on a sports niche with which many viewers may be unfamiliar, F(l)ag Football — the title is too cute for comfort — gets bogged down in the repetitions endemic to its genre. The endless practice scenes, and even the climactic match, have a redundant feel that quickly proves enervating. So does the rambling commentary by the procession of talking heads, many of whom voice similar-sounding sentiments. As is so often the case these days, interesting subject matter that would have made for an excellent short documentary fails to sustain itself at feature length.

Production company: Greenleaf Productions
Distributor: Abramorama
Director: Seth Greenleaf
Producer: James Codoyannis, Seth Greenleaf
Executive producers: Samuel D. Pollard, Scott Yoselow
Director of photography: Alexander Gaylon
Editors: James Codoyannis, Amanda Katz
Composer: Christopher North

94 minutes