Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (DVD)

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is a film detailing the events of a late-sixties football game that is played between two long-standing rivals. The game was important for reasons beyond the rivalry, as both teams had achieved an undefeated season up to that point of the year. Yale’s quarterback, Brian Dowling (who had not lost a game for a number of years), had ran up a considerable lead over the entire game (with less than a minute left, the Yale squad was ahead by 16 points). What happens over the course of the next minute of the game is nothing less than extraordinary, ranking right up there with a similarly-long period of time from the 1972 AFC divisional game between the Steelers and the Raiders.

This documentary is even able to pull some star power, as Tommy Lee Jones provides a few words of eir view of the game (ey was a lineman for Harvard), while other members of each of the teams provide first-hand experiences about exactly went wrong (or right, dependent on whom one roots for), what X factors made the game such a barnburner, and exactly how important the game was to all involved. Despite the result being present in the title, what director Kevin Rafferty does here is create an endearing tale that is humorous, suspenseful, and enthralling all at the same time. In fact, the blending together of game footage, interviews, and some of the ambient videography makes me interested in the rest of Rafferty’s work. I would like to see how eir matured over the 8 years between Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 and Who Wants To Be President, for example.

While the film itself is tremendously interesting throughout, the inclusion of a bonus feature here in the interviews conducted with the real-life players provide further context and imbue a greater appreciation for the film. While there is a theatrical trailer present as a secondary feature, I feel that these interviews are much more important in the grand scheme of things. If you would like to have a unique football moment analyzed in a way that exceeds even the high quality of an ESPN special or a documentary that stands head and shoulders among other films in the genre, pick up this film.

Rating: 7.7/10

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 / 2009 Kino Video / 104 Minutes / http://www.kino.com

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