Austin Wing, the starting goalie for the 2015 state champion soccer team from Lewiston High School, signs a soccer ball for Jack Verville, 9, of Falmouth at the LHS gym lobby Thursday night before the premiere of a movie documenting the team. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — Like a fine wine, the film “One Team: The Story of the Lewiston High School Blue Devils” has aged well.
That was the prevailing sentiment from moviegoers who saw the final version of the film Thursday at Lewiston High School after having seen the director’s cut that premiered at the Emerge Film Festival in 2016.
“I think they were really great, professional changes,” Lewiston boys’ soccer coach Mike McGraw said. “You could see the growth of the filmmaker, and the producers, and all of them, how they had collaborated and morphed it.
“I didn’t know if they could make it much better than it was, but I mean, what do I know about art?”
McGraw, who is the central figure of the film based on the boys’ soccer team’s run to its first state championship in 2015, was not the only one who felt that way.
“It’s a lot better than what it was,” Austin Wing, the starting goalie on the 2015 team, said. “It describes more of what the community has brought to Lewiston, how the soccer team actually helped (the city) out.”
The original director’s cut was, director Ian Clough said, intended to be “a happy soccer piece.” But the story of the team, which brought together players from six countries, has only grown since the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016.
Clough brought in Tom Deschenes as the film’s story editor, and Clough said Deschenes helped rewrite the film to a “bigger narrative.”
“Tom saw a different story,” Clough said.
Clough never wanted to the film to get political, but McGraw — who coached Clough in high school — knew it was inevitable.
“In the film industry, you’ve got to be able to pull on the heartstrings of your audience, you’ve got to inspire them,” McGraw said.
“You’ve got to make them cheer, if you can make them draw a tear, or laugh, that’s what their art is supposed to do, and then still be able to weave a story around in it. And I think it did a tremendous job. He and his staff did a tremendous job.”
The film’s finished version begins with clips of anti-Muslim rhetoric from President Donald Trump during his campaign and on various cable news stories and interviews. It then transitions to the story of how Lewiston began to see a cultural change due to immigration, and how that eventually changed the makeup of the soccer team.
The tale of the team’s season intermingles with the tale of Lewiston’s changing landscape.
“Fast forward two-and-a-half years later, and it tells a more (comprehensive), more complete story, and it’s way more polished than the Emerge cut,” said producer Brad Bosse, who was a classmate of Clough’s at Lewiston.
It is fitting that the film evolved the way it did. The team’s impact on the community did the same thing.
“The community that I thought of was the Lewiston soccer community, the alumni, all of those people who had been there. But to actually see a huge throng of people (at the state title game), and everybody hugging and cheering, that was amazing,” McGraw said.
“And then the aftermath … then I knew that this was bigger. (Athletic Director Jason Fuller) kept warning me, he kept saying: ‘Look, this is going to get out of control, and you better be ready. This thing won’t die.’ And we both wanted to go back and do our job. And it’s still happening.”
One of McGraw’s former players — one of his very first players — said McGraw’s ability to continue to do his job in the face of adversity was exactly why the team was able to have the impact it did.
“It doesn’t surprise because of who he is, and because of the game of soccer in general,” said Eric Wagner, who was a senior on McGraw’s first team in 1982. “It’s happened all over the world, those types of stories in the game of soccer. But the fact that it happened here, with him, doesn’t surprise me at all just because of who he is and what he’s all about.”
Wing, who first met many of his teammates playing middle school soccer, said they didn’t realize what their title run meant to to the community at first. The fan support at the state final gave them a glimpse, but they players are still seeing their impact grow.
“It means a great deal to me still,” Wing said.
Clough said he thought the final version was better than his director’s cut, but had doubts just a couple days ago. Positive reaction during a question-and-answer session after the first of two showings Thursday eased his thoughts.
“I could show it to one person in the community, and if they could have the response that I had tonight, that would be all I would need for people to realize I did this for the high school, I did it for McGraw, I did it for Lewiston,” Clough said.
“And to hear people realize that, and appreciate that, yeah, that’s what it’s all about.”
Clough announced between showings that the film crew will be showing the movie next weekend at the Portland Museum of Art, but he did not have full details yet concerning days and times.
Movie producer Ian Clough is framed by former Lewiston High soccer player Austin Wing, who was the starting goalie on the 2015 state championship soccer team that Clough’s movie documented. They were in the LHS gym lobby waiting for the start of the film that was being premiered in the school’s gym Thursday night. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Lewiston High School soccer coach Mike McGraw, right, waves to friends as he arrives at the school’s gym, where a movie about the 2015 state championship he coached was premiering. Next to him is the movie producer, Ian Clough. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)