By Hana Khalyleh, April 9, 2015.
Members of the Phoenix Hellraisers made their big-screen debut last month, as a documentary on the National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL) was presented at this year’s Phoenix Film Festival.
F(l)ag Football, directed by Seth Greenleaf, follows three teams – the Phoenix Hellraisers, the Los Angeles Motion and the New York Warriors – on their quest for the national championship, Gay Bowl X, which was held in Phoenix in 2010.
While the film is centered on the fundamentals of football, and includes a heavy dose of practice footage, the message is deeper, according to Greenleaf.
“The goal is to shed the light on gay athletes, to show what incredible athletes these guys are, to create more interest in athletics in the gay community, as well as to open eyes in the straight community,” Greenleaf said.
From the beginning, Greenleaf said his goal with the project was to generate mor interest in sports and the positive role sports leagues play within the gay community – despite a hesitation some may have before entering what many regard to be an intolerant space.
“I think a lot of gay men were turned off by sports and sports culture from a young age, which is a shame because the companionship and experience of sports culture is a great thing to be a part of, and would be great for young people in the gay community,” Greenleaf said.
The documentary, Greenleaf added, also delves into the stories and personalities of the team members, each team’s playing style and the involvement of each team in the LGBT community both on and off the field.
“The [Phoenix Hellraisers] happen to be, for good reason, the fan favorite team,” he said. “They really play from their heart, and you can’t help but fall in love with them.”
Joey Jacinto, the team’s quarterback and coach during the filming of F(l)ag Football, said he believes that being allowed to be yourself in any sport allows to reach your full potential
“It’s important to see this film, so kids going through this in college or high school have something to relate to,” he said, “so they could feel comfortable about themselves and reach their full potential.”
Jacinto, who was heavily involved in sports growing up, said he hopes F(l)ag Football brings about change in the lives of LGBT children seeking a safe space in athletics.
“Sports, for me, have always broken barriers,” Jacinto said. “I think this film brings it to people’s attention. Gay leagues and teams have been … knocking down barriers and changing stereotypes for a long time.”
According to Jared Garduno, the Hellraisers’ rusher and co-captain, the film’s significance will not only resonate with LGBT community, but with straight audiences as well.
“The mainstream sports community needs to see the participation of these LGBT sports teams on and off the field,” he said. “I don’t see how [they] wouldn’t just fall in love with the passion of the leagues in the movie and the bonds we’ve all created.”
Greenleaf is not only a straight ally, but also a straight athlete who sees the disconnect between the athletic communities.
“For someone like [Greenleaf] to recognize what we have and why it matters is great,” Jacinto said. “I think most of the crew [are] allies, and it
was great to watch them put something like this together. It’s a great tool for social change.”
For more information on F(l)ag Football, or to watch the trailer, visit flagfootballthemovie.com. To find out more about the Phoenix Hellraisers of the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League, visit phoenixflagfootball.com.