Bush League is a character driven ethnographic survey of a tiny village in Northern Malawi. Intimate dramas unfold in the lives of four villagers who are all members of the local soccer team.
Chatwa, the team captain, is an ambitious farmer who is in deep with the local bank but torrential rains are destroying his crops. Jake, an American Peace Corps volunteer who sponsors the team, is pushed to his limits when the politics of the game affect his school construction project. Jacqueline, the head cheerleader, suspects her husband is cheating on her and is concerned he'll give her HIV. Mlawa is a midfielder and an expectant father who's gravely concerned about the infection growing on his leg. Each must face their individual challenges as the team battles to win the local championship.
Documentary, 72m, 2010
"Scoring not just as a sports docu but as an ethnographic study, Cy Kuckenbaker's "Bush League" is an entertaining, educational and immersive pic that portrays life in the Malawian village of Zolokere through a look at the ups and downs of its soccer team, the Tony Bombers. Shooting and cutting the film himself, Kuckenbaker catches plenty of action, from fiery debates over game play to the everyday struggles of villagers to deal with the specter of HIV/AIDS. If anything, "Bush League" is more interested in Southeast African culture than in soccer, which will frustrate some viewers and stimulate many others."
-Rob Nelson, Variety
"Unlike most documentaries filmed in Africa by Western filmmakers, Bush League is an accurate look at the everyday challenges of village life."
-Kim Dionne, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Texas A&M University, Fulbright Scholar (Malawi) 2008 - 2009
"A movie about development wrapped in a movie about soccer, this film engages the viewer in a 400 level discussion of classic development challenges like getting community buy-in for a project that serves one group more than another. I wish I had seen this before spending a year working micro-grants on a PRT in Iraq. Should be required viewing by Peace Corps volunteers and USAID staffers. Some of the footage -- including the funeral of a five year old -- is riveting, and the discussion of HIV is masterful for its subtlety."
-James O'Gara, Washington, D.C.