San Bernardino, CA (12/02/16) – In a week when the world was shocked by a tragedy like the one that happened to Brazil’s Associação Chapecoense de Futebol, the power of sports (the power of soccer in particular) to unite the world independently of race, religion, and many other aspects of life that divide people was once again proven. For one day, there was no rivalry, no violence, no difference. Now, the loss and pain caused by tragedies like these take a while to heal…sometimes it never does; but the beauty of unity between rivals and life lessons that will last forever are a true proof that there is no better way to generate good change – whether that is in a single community or in the entire world – than with sports.
Likewise, one year ago, the San Bernardino community was impacted by a tragedy. Even within California, the city of San Bernardino is often overlooked. Although more than two hundred thousand people call it home, it exists in the shadow of its more glamorous neighbors. This occlusion only deepened on December 2, 2015 – the day of the third-deadliest mass shooting in American history. The mass media descended on the Inland Regional Center, and put the tragedy in the context of a global struggle between immigrants and natives, Muslims and Christians, and gun control proponents and Second Amendment absolutists. Lost amidst the noise was San Bernardino itself: its struggles with crime and drug addiction and depressed property values, and the everyday stories of its residents, many of whom are first-generation Americans battling to find a footing in the United States.
Just minutes before the attack, a Southern California Sports Club’s press release officially announced the club’s entrance into the NPSL and start of its first year of operations. The club was heavily impacted by the happening: players, coaches, staff, and fans were all shocked by the occasion, like many others though, giving up was not an option. Not only did the 2016 SoCal SC squad play their season in honor of the victims and the community, the team also had an outstanding first year in the league, making into the conference playoffs. The impressive season of the city’s newest professional team might not have solved too many of the community’s issues, then again, that might have been the spark San Bernardino needed to start its assent back into the nationally renowned San Bernardino of some years ago.
One more step into improvement, the story turned into a documentary when Rockerazzi Filmz’s Jared Sagal learned and gained interest for it. San Bernardino – Alive and Kicking tells a little of San Bernardino’s and SoCal’s story and the changes that the sport brought and will continue to bring to the community. As the producer himself stated, “the sixty-minute film is the story of SoCal SC – San Bernardino’s newly-minted professional soccer club. Launched in late 2015, SoCal SC becomes a symbol of resiliency, a source of great local pride, and a route out of town for young athletes at risk of falling into poverty.”
Alive And Kicking, a smart, tough-minded, and emotionally forthright documentary, is a chronicle of the real San Bernardino: a troubled but colorful city, one populated by survivors, and full of tales worth telling. Director Jared Sagal takes us to the opening of the field and team tryouts, lets us peer inside the locker room, puts us on the field for the SoCal matches, and shares the personal stories of the team’s magnetic players and coaches. Although Alive And Kicking is, at heart, a celebration of soccer, Sagal never lets us forget that the club is united in its mission to help a shattered city heal. One of the most unforgettable images in the film: members of SoCal SC taking the field with armbands bearing the names of victims of the shooting.
Alive And Kicking features interviews with San Bernardino civic leaders, budding-star soccer players coming into their powers, local sports executives (including plenty of irresistibly-watchable footage of SoCal SC’s fiery, charismatic general manager and team architect, in action) and ordinary workers at Inland Regional Center, whose passion for their jobs mirrors the pride felt by the members of the team. It’s a history lesson about a great American city that has fallen on hard times, a compassionate human-interest story, an intervention in a contemporary debate, a plea for unity and understanding, and an advertisement for the sheer, fast-paced thrill of soccer. It would be compelling viewing even if SoCal SC’s inaugural season hadn’t ended in an amazing, improbable, nail-biting sports moment – but it did. Now, this end, is not really an end, but rather a beginning to SoCal’s journey in assisting to restructure the city, the community, and the unity of San Bernardino through sports.