Nimrod Nation, Season 1
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This eight-part original documentary series from filmmaker Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture) profiles rural Watersmeet, Michigan, where everyone follows the progress of the local high-school basketball team — the Nimrods. More a portrait of a small American town than a conventional sports documentary, Nimrod Nation sympathetically observes life and conversation in the local coffee shops, hunting lodges, and locker rooms as the long, cold basketball season unfolds.
|1||VideoEpisode 1||As the school year begins, hopes are high for the Watersmeet Nimrods, who won the 2005 District Finals in the team's best season ever. Coach George Peterson III hopes to lead the Nimrods to a championship, but he must balance his duties with his job as the principal of Watersmeet Township School. The team's star members include guard George Peterson IV, a senior who is the coach's son; center Nathan Vestich, a senior who is also student council president; and center Brian Aimsback, a Native American in his junior year. The season opener pits the Nimrods against a tough opponent, the Bessemer High School Speedboys.||29:19||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|2||VideoEpisode 2||The uneasy nature of relations between Watersmeet's white and Native American communities is highlighted when Brian Aimsback and George Peterson IV reach the same career milestone of 1,000 points. But basketball is not the only subject stirring up local passions: word is out that a large housing development has been proposed for Bond Falls Park, a scenic wilderness area that is a popular spot for fishing, cookouts and other activities. Determined to save the land for future generations, ardent outdoorsman Jeff Zelinski begins a petition drive against the Bond Falls development.||27:51||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|3||VideoEpisode 3||Motivational speaker Karl Randall visits Watersmeet Township School to talk to students about smoking, drinking, drugs and sex, and offers his own cautionary tale of teenage drinking and driving. Meanwhile, George and Suzanne Zelinski have taken in Suzanne's pregnant niece, Anna, a studious high school junior emerging from a rocky period in her life. As the Nimrods prepare to take on the undefeated Forest Park-Crystal Falls Trojans, pressure mounts on Brian, whose once-mighty shooting average has declined since he and cheerleader Hope Yablonski began dating.||27:50||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|4||VideoEpisode 4||Student council president and Nimrod center Nathan Vestich heads up the planning for Homecoming Week activities, including dress-up days. A critical game against Ewen-Trout Creek turns ugly in the fourth quarter as players become physically aggressive, and Nathan's excellent showing is overshadowed by personal fouls in the game's closing minutes. After a Bessemer student threatens to retaliate against Nathan, Coach Peterson takes extra steps to ensure that the Nimrods' upcoming match against the Bessemer Speedboys stays clean.||27:41||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|5||VideoEpisode 5||Drama teacher Suzanne Zelinski tries to inject the arts into the school's extracurricular programs as she mounts a musical production, "Toys-R-Alive." Some Nimrod players join the cast, but rehearsals hit a bump when the athletes are claimed by basketball practice. Parent-teacher conference day brings some discussion about the tension between school sports and academic work. Sloppy playing by the Nimrods gives Coach Peterson cause for worry as the team nears the end of the regular season.||27:40||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|6||VideoEpisode 6||Coach Peterson delivers an emotional speech on Senior Night, bidding farewell to six graduating players, including Nathan and George IV. Only one of the team's star players, Brian, will be returning the Nimrods next season. Watersmeet citizens and businesses get into the spirit of March Madness, and college coaches begin making inquiries about some Nimrod players. Bolstered by their 18-2 record, the Nimrods head into the first game of the post-season and face one of their fiercest rivals.||27:40||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|7||VideoEpisode 7||As the Nimrods advance to the District Finals, Coach Peterson brings in former NCAA basketball coach Norman Ellwood for expert advice and strategizing - and to help get slacking center Nathan to perform up to his potential. While Nathan acknowledges the need to shape up, Brian is eager to redeem himself after a poor showing against Bessemer. Encouraged by his grandmother, Wanda, and his girlfriend Hope, Brian meets with a Chippewa tribal member about returning to one of his earliest loves, traditional Native dancing.||27:40||$1.99||View In iTunes|
|8||VideoEpisode 8||Nimrod fans are nervous but hopeful as their team gets ready to play the #1 Forest Park-Crystal Falls' Trojans in the Regional Semi-Finals. Taking the court against the fast and formidable Trojans, the Nimrods are challenged not only to keep up, but also to keep their cool. With the snow melting and the basketball post-season winding down, it is time to turn to spring outdoor traditions.||27:00||$1.99||View In iTunes|
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Staged and Edited, Not What Watersmeet Really Is
What you see in this series is staged. Film crews suggested activities that they felt would best portray the image they had in mind for Watersmeet. How do I know? Because I was asked to participate in some of them. Several of the ball players were asked to do things that they really never do, such as go ice fishing or visit the home of a mentor. How do I know? They talked openly about it before going out to put on a show for the film crews. I witnessed much of the filming that was actually done. Very little of it made the final edit. What was intentionally left out? Anything that negatively portrayed certain key characters, such as the reels of footage that captured them drinking heavily in the bars each evening or any references to a key character's arrest for Driving While Intoxicated. How did this happen? He threatened to pull the plug on the entire series if anything negative was portrayed about him. How do I know? He told me this. He actually told many people this. I live in Watersmeet. If the series looks like a throwback to the mindsets of long ago, it certainly does bear some of those troubling legacies. It is a community where many of the people are still deeply divided by racism. Much of this came up during the filming. But under threat of having the plug pulled, the reels of alcoholism and racism found their way to the cutting room's floor. The innocent image portrayed by this series does great harm to those of us who live here and have been trying to make a difference in the lives of our youth. Unfortunately, the people most responsible for these problems are some of the main adult characters in this series. It does not help to present them as pillars of the community when they are anything but. Several members of the Lac Vieux Desert community are so offended that they have written a letter denouncing this series as yet another example of the reductive history of the area. Many, many tribal officials were filmed, yet as was noticed in the special premiere viewing of the entire series, their valid complaints about the community's enduring racism were nowhere to be found.
...Home of the Brave
This film is clearly not just about basketball; it's about a culture. "Nimrod Nation" is an accurate portrayal of rural life in Northern Michigan. Through candid, unscripted narration, the viewer witnesses small town gossip, largely focused on the high school basketball team, which is the centerpiece of the community and this film. One will notice a strong regional dialect, as well as how the Nimrods adapt to the extreme weather conditions only common to certain parts of the northern country. The viewer learns what it is like to grow up as a "Yooper" through vivid snapshots of daily activities and pastimes. As the film progresses toward an emotional ending, don't forget that although life in rural Michigan is warm and welcoming, it can sometimes be rather chilly and brutal.
Not a yooper but...
I'm not a Yooper but I am a Michigan native and I think this is a great series. When you come from a small town like Watersweet, it is very easy for the whole town to get behind one team. This show is spectacular in truthfully portraying the pressures experienced by this group of kids and the emotions that go along with those pressures.