Shortly after leaving his gig last year as producer for Miami-based documentary maker Rakontur, the company that brought the world Cocaine Cowboys and The U, Evan Rosenfeld went on a journey to the Far East in search of a project for his directorial debut. "I took a trip to India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Nepal," he says. "I needed to figure out a way to make a documentary over in the region."
He found his subject matter in Mumbai after reading about NFL analysts Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin and Mike Ditka investing in an upstart American football league in India. "I knew this was my movie," Rosenfeld says. "I had to do it."
So Rosenfeld and his girlfriend, Jenna Moshell, another Rakontur alum, set out to document the lives of the players who joined the Elite Football League of India, which was recently featured in the New York Times. During one of their three trips to Mumbai, the couple got engagedwhile forging friendships with the stars of their documentary.
They followed the players from training camp to the end of the first season, as well as traveling with the athletes to their hometowns to talk to their friends and relatives. "All the guys come from sports like rugby, soccer, judo, wrestling, track and field, etc.," Rosenfeld notes. "None of them have ever gotten paid, and most of them are poor. This league pays the players and is hoping to create hope for the athletes of India."
Rosenfeld's subjects included Guaresh, a member of the Mumbai Gladiators, who lives in one of the city's worst slums. His family of six lives in a cramped one bedroom apartment. "When he got his first paycheck, Guaresh bought food for his whole neighborhood," Rosenfeld says.
Another player, Amit "Happy" Lohchab of the Delhi Defenders, was a star rugby player for the Indian national team. "There is no money in the village Auchandi where he comes from," Rosenfeld says. "People just trade things. His team didn't have a good field to practice on so he gathered up his teammates and villagers to literally build a football field with their bare hands."
Rosenfeld also notes the league features teams from Pakistan, India's most hated enemy. Both countries have nukes pointed at each other, yet on Aug. 14, Pakistan's independence day, players from that country invited their Indian counterparts over for a party.
"We got all the guys on camera sharing food, laughing, and singing songs," Rosenfeld says. "It was amazing."
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Now Rosenfeld, who earned an accounting degree from the University of Miami, and Moshell are seeking funds to finish production of their documentary. They are in the midst of a 25-day Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the film. Check out the teaser trailer below: