When I heard that the Clover Theater would show the film McFarland USA to every middle school class and every high school class over three days in spring 2015, I knew it would be a great story for the local paper.
The showings were possible thanks to three anonymous donors, as well as the theater owner, who made it fit into the schools’ and the theater’s existing film schedules. Many of the students are children of farmworkers, just like the characters in the true-story film, and wouldn’t have been able to see the movie otherwise.
I pitched the story to the Cloverdale Reveille, reported and wrote it, and took the photos. Here’s the story, in full:
Clover Theater Screens “McFarland USA” for 400 Students
By Pat Soberanis
Over three days this week, The Clover Theater held special showings of the movie “McFarland USA” for the entire 400-student body of Washington Middle School, thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor.
“It’s very gracious,” says Washington Vice Principal John Ortiz. “She had just seen the movie and thought the students should see it too. That’s how we got the ball rolling.”
Separately, another donor provided funds to cover half the 400 students of Cloverdale High School; The Clover Theater provided matching funds for the other half. Special screenings for the high school will be shown soon.
“McFarland USA” tells the true story of a high school coach (Kevin Costner) who lands in tiny McFarland, Calif., where most students are Hispanic, from farm worker families. After noticing some students’ exceptional running speeds, Coach White forms a cross-country team and leads it to the state championships.
“We knew it would have a lot of relevance here,” says theater owner Ryan Hecht, “because in many ways Cloverdale is a lot like McFarland. We felt it was important for the kids to see it, and a lot wouldn’t have a chance to see it otherwise.”
Washington 5th grader Angie Pérez Garcia says, “It was the best movie ever, because it’s about someone who has a dream and achieves it.” Her father started as a laborer and is now a vineyard supervisor after 19 years at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates.
Classmate Jesus Chavez, whose father works the vineyards in Petaluma, loved it: “They got really fast and beat the champions!”
Indeed, every Washington student cheered the team’s final stretch—and will soon write a heartfelt thank-you letter to the donor who made it all possible.