F(l)ag Football is a documentary chronicling the journey of gay football players on their way to the National Gay Flag Football Championships in Phoenix, Arizona. Like most great documentaries, it is insightful, intriguing, and an emotional roller coaster. It breaks some stereotypes, and reinforces others, by showing competitive athletes struggling with their complex identities and team dynamics.
First, let’s discuss the title. The title is “F(l)ag Football”, but it is stylized with a rainbow flag taking the place of the “l” in flag and it looks like they are trying to create another word. There are a few words in our language that I think should be removed from the lexicon altogether due to their typically hateful usage, and that is one of them. I don’t even care for its usage on British television where I know they mean cigarettes; not a fan of cigarettes either, but that’s beside the point.
That being said, Flag Football is a well-made documentary. Despite my nearly complete lack of interest in football, I found it inspiring to see the players strive for a championship in an organization that promotes openness and being true to yourself. Many people discuss their past experiences, both in life as they came out and on the field before and after they created or joined this league. Created over a decade ago, the “Gay Bowl” started as a small group out 3 teams and has since expanded to 26 teams in 19 cities. The pioneers appear in the film to discuss its formation and the reasons behind it.
There is some humor, whether intentional or unintentional. The film focuses on how gay stereotypes do not always fit with these athletes, but then there are scenes of them in a drag show. There’s also a hint of racism that could’ve been worse if they weren’t a close team; it’s not quite the “n” word, but it was petty close in my opinion.
In between the discussions is footage of football; either practicing or the game itself. Football fans might enjoy this; I found it dull beyond the inspirational aspects. They seem to be playing by standard flag football rules, but I am not an expert. The actual competition takes place over three days were they play up to seven games and you get to see a fair amount of the competition. By the time they show the competition, you’ve got a pretty good idea of who these people are and you might even be rooting for one team or certain players.
I would like to think homophobia is on its way out the door, but every once in a while, just like racism, the news will remind us that it is still alive and kicking. This movie is another step in the right direction. It introduces us to an entire subculture that represents some of the best that all of humanity has to offer. I would recommend this even to non-football game, though they will probably enjoy the second half more.