“McFarland, USA”: The Faith Behind Disney’s New Movie (Video)

Academy Award winner Kevin Costner, center, portrays cross-country coach Jim White in Disney’s “McFarland, USA.” “It’s an honor to have him play me,” the real-life White said. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY DISNEY MOVIES)
Academy Award winner Kevin Costner, center, portrays cross-country coach Jim White in Disney’s “McFarland, USA.” “It’s an honor to have him play me,” the real-life White said. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY DISNEY MOVIES)

New movie starring Kevin Costner is based on the inspiring true story of coach Jim White, who has deep roots in Churches of Christ.

McFarland, USA,” a new Disney film starring Kevin Costner, tells the true story of California cross-country coach Jim White, who transformed a migrant farm town’s predominantly Latino high school into an unlikely powerhouse.

The PG-rated motion picture, which opens nationwide Feb. 20, has “a lot of Hollywood” in it, as the real-life Jim White and his wife, Cheryl, describe it.

But the Whites — lifelong Church of Christ members who infused their faith into their work with generations of runners — wholeheartedly endorse the movie’s overall message.

“They captured our true love for the kids, and they captured the hard work that these kids actually go through to survive,” Jim White told The Christian Chronicle.

Cheryl White, who is played by actress Maria Bello, said: “They don’t depict me as the involved mother and wife that I was, but that’s OK. They got it close enough that it tells a good story about paying it forward and being involved with kids.”

The Whites, both 73, met in 1959 at the short-lived Magic Valley Christian College, a liberal arts school associated with Churches of Christ that was located in a small mountain range of southeastern Idaho. The college sweethearts married in 1961.

Jim White later transferred to George Pepperdine College in Los Angeles, the forerunner of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

After his 1964 graduation, he got a job as a fifth-grade teacher in McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley.

For Jim White, McFarland High’s nine cross-country state championships highlighted a 40-year teaching and coaching career.

In real life, the runners prayed before each race.

“They only showed one prayer in the movie, but at least they showed that,” Cheryl White said. “We know that this is totally God’s blessing.

“We’re just country bumpkins,” she said. “We’re not used to all this media and all this attention. How do you explain this? It’s a God thing.”

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SOURCE: The Christian Chronicle
Bobby Ross Jr.

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