McFarland, USA

Tonight my family–including my 86 year old grandma–had the treat of seeing McFarland USA in the movie theater.  Everyone–including grandma and my skeptical husband–enjoyed it.  Our “Ukrainican” exchange daughter said she “loved it”!

So a family movie night might not seem to relate to a blog about language learning and teaching, but indeed it does!  McFarland USA is a new inspirational sports movie by Disney that is based on a true story.  It stars Kevin Costner as a coach who moves to McFarland, CA and starts the first ever cross country team at McFarland High.  His runners are “pickers”; students who work in the fields picking produce to help support their families.

In the course of the film there are many connections that can be drawn to use in class: pursuing your dreams/American Dream, quinceañera, lowriders, prejudice, family values, and music!  Juanes’ song Juntos–which he performed at the Grammys recently– plays over the final credits.  I believe this was the first time that there was a live performance in Spanish at the Grammys.  Here’s Zachary Jones’ activity to accompany the song.

The film is rated PG, and the “Disney” aspect helps to keep it clean and fresh as a family movie.  Nonetheless, it is well done, and there is enough suspense and drama to keep it from feeling too sugary.  The majority of the film is in English, though there is a fair amount of Spanish at various points in the film.

I hope you enjoy the film as much as we did.  I’m toying with several ideas of how to use the film for class, but haven’t decided quite what that will be yet.  In the meantime, here are some resources that you might find interesting and helpful.


  • See some reviews from Roger Ebert’s site here and Rolling Stone here.
  • Here’s a trailer with an intro by Juanes… and also in Spanish!  Interesting that they use a Juanes song (A Dios Le Pido), but not the Juanes song that’s in the film.  The Disney site where both of these trailers are located has a bunch of trailers in both languages if you scroll down a little.
  • Some activities to accompany several of the trailers film are here.   If you know the source of this file, please share it with me so I can credit the original author.  I think it was one of my Twitter connections, but I can’t locate who it was.
  • Find out more about the true story behind the film at PeopleWikipedia, Sports Illustrated, and on ESPN.
  • More about the family highlighted in the ESPN article above here
  • A peek behind the scenes here.



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