The Long Game: Family-Friendly Film Highlights Racism, Personal Growth

By Nancy Flory Published on March 29, 2024

Mucho Mas Media and Bonniedale Entertainment together will release a new film, The Long Game, to theaters nationwide on April 12. Based on Humberto G. Garcia’s book Mustang Miracle, the true story stars Dennis Quaid (The Big Easy, Wyatt Earp), Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights, Crazy/Beautiful), and Cheech Marin (Nash Bridges, Cars). 

The Long Game is about five Mexican-American teenagers in south Texas and the two men who recruited them to form a high school golf team to compete against all-white high schools. Racism and how the young men handle it is the underlying theme. The Stream‘s Nancy Flory interviewed director and cowriter Julio Quintana about the film. Here’s what he had to say. 

The Stream: Without giving it away, can you tell me a little bit about the film?

Julio Quintana: The Long Game tells the true story of a group of young high school Latino caddies in the 1950s, who, since they weren’t allowed to play at their local country club, decided to build their own course out in the field and teach themselves golf, and ultimately went on to win the Texas State Championship. 

Stream: What made you want to get involved in this project?

JQ: I felt like there were a lot of movies in this sort of space, you know, things about racism. But what I really resonated with in this story was it was a group of young guys who basically just didn’t make any excuses for themselves. They put in the work and built their own course and made opportunities for themselves. And I have found that to be really inspiring.

Both of my parents are from Cuba. I think that’s sort of the immigrant ethos — you try to just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and a lot of times make something out of nothing. And that’s what these boys actually did, which I think is an inspiring way to approach the subject matter. 

Stream: Can you tell me how closely the film matches the true story?

JQ: It’s very close. The major beats are all the challenges that the boys faced. The reason the team was put together is because [one of the men helping the boys do it] got rejected from his own local country club. All that stuff’s true. The ending is true. There’s little points here and there where we maybe increase the drama or invent a character to help articulate some themes. But for the most part, this is what happened. 

Stream: You were a cowriter on this. Did you have challenges? How long did it take to write the screenplay?

JQ: There was a script that was brought to me, which I liked, but I ended up doing some adaptations to it over the course of two or three months or something like that. I think one of the challenges was that the original story that came to me was a little too clean. All the [Latino characters] were just sort of squeaky clean and didn’t really have much personality. It was basically just white people were just being mean to them and wouldn’t let them play [golf]. Then eventually they got on the course and weren’t able to play, and that, on top of just not being very interesting cinematically, just didn’t really resonate with me as being true to life. So I went back and I adjusted it to give the kids some flaws — make them rough around the edges. That way they had room to grow. They could learn etiquette. They learned how to be gentlemen on the course. That was a big part of the theme — them growing as young men and learning how to control their emotions. So that was probably the main contribution that I brought on the rewrite.

Stream: What are you most proud of in this film? 

JQ: Racism seems to be an incredibly divisive issue right now in our country. I think the thing that I’m most proud of is that when I screen it for audiences, it doesn’t matter where people fall on the political spectrum, people seem to just agree that this is just an honest portrayal, and everybody seems to agree that this is the right way to approach these issues and these challenges. As far as I can tell, it seems to be resonating with everybody, which I think [is] a testament to how our team put together a story that’s just as honest and true as [it] could be.

I didn’t want to make something that was unnecessarily divisive or criticizing of anybody. I think if anything, I’m concerned that we don’t have enough shared values anymore as a country and as a society. It was very important to try to make something that maybe in some way could help remind us of what we have in common and some of the things that bond us rather than divide us. 

Stream: Tell me about the cast. Did you have a hand in making those decisions? 

JQ: The only cast member I didn’t choose was Jay Hernandez, the lead. But he was already attached when the movie was brought to me, which was great for me. I had worked with Dennis Quaid on Blue Miracle, so I asked him. I expanded a role for him so he could be in the movie. And he’s obsessed with golf, so that worked perfectly. With the boys, Julian Works, who’s the main young man in the movie, had auditioned for Blue Miracle, my last movie, back in 2019. We picked a different kid, but I always remembered Julian and I kept him in mind. When I was rewriting the script, I was imagining Julian the whole time. He was perfect for that role. Miguel Garcia played Mokel in Blue Miracle. There’s Jimmy Gonzalez, who played the lead in Blue Miracle. Once I find people that I love and enjoy working with, I tend to try to use them whenever I can.

Stream: Who’s the audience for this film?

JQ: That’s a good question. The movie was designed [so that] potentially everybody could watch it. It’s PG. I think it reflects universal values. We ideally would like it to work for everyone. Even though it’s PG, I think because of the subject matter, maybe the little kids, they just won’t find it interesting. Maybe it’s not a little kids’ movie. Older people definitely resonate with the movie because of the 1950s, and we’ve done some really powerful screenings with older crowds that actually remember these times. They’re crying and remembering the challenge they had.

I also really would like the younger audiences to see this, because I think the main thing I learned as I was making this movie was, I walked away with a sense of gratitude for how far we’ve come as a society. I think it’s easy to get caught up in some of the challenges that we still face in different ways, but I think when you see a story like this and you see what the previous generations went through, it’s hard to not have a sense of gratitude for the work that was put in and really an appreciation for a lot of all the progress that we’ve made. I think we’ve gotten to a place where the younger generation really doesn’t have the same excuses or challenges their grandparents and great-grandparents had. I would really like young people to see this and really understand perspective whenever we’re talking about some of the criticisms of our current culture.

It was an opportunity for me to take a story where racism obviously existed. It was a very obvious problem. It was a chance for me to show through these guys’ true story [that] this is the way to face these challenges. This is the proper way to face these obstacles in life.

Stream: What do you want audience members to take away from seeing the film?

JQ: As the child of immigrants from an authoritarian dictatorship, I get a bit baffled by conversations about what a terrible place this [country] is. My family’s extremely grateful for being here and all the opportunities that it’s given them. If there’s a way that people can get a sense that there are values that we all share, that there’s something about this place that does make it great in spite of its shortcomings, I think that an appreciation for that fact is really important. If there’s any way that people could walk away with just a glimmer of that memory of what this place could be, I think that would be really a huge win for me. That’s way more important than box office [returns] or anything like that.

Watch the trailer:

 

Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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