Cheerleaders

On March 3rd, eight of Montana’s smallest towns empty.  Lights go out. Stores close.  No one is left to read the message on the marquee at the tiny movie theater:  NO SHOW.  C YOU AT THE STATE TOURNAMENT.   Hundreds of miles away, the gym fills.  High school boys in cheerleaders’ uniforms scream. Ranchers with dyed red beards and painted faces chant.  Grandmas’ streamers pulse in time with the techno beat.  Three months earlier, ninety-one girls’ basketball teams from Montana’s smallest schools set out to win the Class C state championship. Only one will win it all.   

In 1897, only a few years after its invention, the game of basketball arrived in Montana.  Before men even started playing the game, young women formed the first teams in the state and competed in organized leagues.  In the early years, women’s teams played fast-paced full-court basketball.  Heated matches between girls in bloomers drew enthusiastic crowds.  But the excitement of these early years faded when new rules from the East “tamed” the “unladylike” sport.  Men’s basketball flourished.  Women’s basketball disappeared. 

In the 1970s, Title IX legislation mandated the revival of girls’ basketball programs and Class C athletes embraced the game.  As the skills of female players improved, so did the popularity of the sport. Today, communities rally in support of their girls. Lonely miles of snow drifted gravel roads and two lane highways evaporate with the roar of the crowd.

trainClass C, an award-winning feature length documentary follows 5 girl’s basketball teams from Montana’s smallest schools on their journey to win the “Class C” state championship. Class C tells the story of a changing rural America and the girls who carry the hope and heartbreak of their fading communities onto the basketball court.

Over the course of 3 years, filmmakers Justin Lubke and Shasta Grenier drove thousands of miles on empty back roads, finding the stories behind the surprising drama of Class C basketball games. The film watches as farms fail and schools shut down.  It visits places like Whitewater, a town without a single paved road, and Rocky Boy’s Reservation,                                                                                       where the team has a chance to make to the state                                                                                       finals for the first time in 18 years. 

Along the way, it introduces a cast of quirky, charismatic and fiercely determined characters. As they dance the can-can, spray-paint three point lines onto the dirt behind the barn, and “get ‘er done” on the court, the girls of Class C will make you laugh, cry, and hope that their tiny towns can find some way to survive.

Class C’s entire cast and crew has small town origins.  Director Justin Lubke and Grammy nominated composer Philip Aaberg both grew up playing small town basketball.  NBA Coach Phil Jackson, whose witty and insightful commentary guides the film, was born in Deer Lodge, Montana.  The Hall of Fame coach hasn’t forgotten his earliest days as a player, learning the game from the former captain of the Wolf Point basketball team—his mother.

While Class C takes place in small town Montana, its stories are unfolding in rural communities across America. It is a journey to the end of the road that captures the spirit of those who remain.

© 2008 Class C Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.