DETROIT (WWJ) A new independent film – based on a national powerhouse high school football team -opens at the AMC Theater in Southfield on Friday.

Carter High is the true story of the 1988 Carter High School football team in Dallas, Texas. Executive Producer Greg Ellis says the team was one of the most talented high school football teams in U.S. history. Ellis was a key member of the team before turning pro and playing 11 years for the Dallas Cowboys, and later, the Oakland Raiders. Currently, he’s entering his sixth year of retirement.

“You got a grade discrepancy to kind of start the movie off, but the major part of this movie kicks into high gear when these high school kids start doing stuff that they really shouldn’t be doing, and then when they get caught up in doing that stuff, they got some extreme consequences dealt their way,” Ellis told WWJ’s Terri Lee via phone from Dallas.

Ellis says the movie also shows that a lot of responsibility comes with being an athlete.

“With that responsibility, a lot of times young minds aren’t able to fully understand the consequences of their decisions and the choices that they make,” Ellis said.

Another popular movie, Friday Night Lights, was inspired by the Carter High story. So, why make this movie?

“Friday Night Lights is a great movie; a lot of people love it, including myself, but
Friday Night Lights told the story from Odessa Permian’s side; that was another Texas team,” Ellis explained. “They told the story from their side. And it really made the minority — we were called the minority team, that had the black football players on it — made them look just like they were all just no-good thugs, drug-dealing, drug using people, kids. And the reality of the situation is, these kids were not like that.”

The film’s writer and director is award-winning independent filmmaker Arthur Muhammad. It took him more than 13 years to get his movie made, something he says was important to him.

“I actually played on this team,” Muhammad said. “I was a junior that particular year and when we (were) going through what we (were) going through, we would sit around and say, man, somebody needs to make a movie about this. And, of course, we was just playing around, but filmmaking has always been a passion of mine … so I wrote the script 13 years ago, and it’s first-hand experience, true accounts, everything. So when you see other movies that say ‘based on a true story,’ this film is a true story.”

And, Muhammad says this movie has a very clear message:

“The ultimate message is destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. So you choose your own destiny, and it’s based on the choices that you make.”

And Ellis, who parlayed his love for sports into a career as a professional athlete and later the CEO of Play Now Enterprises, explains why the community needs to see this film.

“This is a life-changing film. This film will let people know … to take that time out to think about something before I do it.”

As an example, he cites something that happened during a showing of the film in Dallas. “We had some of the local actors show up just to shake some hands and thank people for coming … and a young lady came up to (one of the actors) and asked him could he sign her cell phone. He said, well, why do you want me to sign your cell phone; do you have anything else? She says, no, I want you to sign my cell phone because every time I think about doing something I should not be doing, I want to look down at this cell phone and see your signature and just remind myself, should I really be doing this. Am I making the right decisions? That’s the impact this movie will have, and that’s the impact I’m wanting it to have on people.”

Muhammad adds that it’s important for the community to also show its support for independently-produced films.

“We look at Hollywood and we complain about them not telling our story, so hopefully, once we do tell our story, we support our story, so we can continue to help our filmmakers to continue that trend of telling our own stories.”

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Carter High is showing exclusively in the metro Detroit area at the AMC Theater in Southfield. It stars Vivica A. Fox, Charles S. Dutton (better known as Roc) and David Banner.

See you at the movies!

Follow Terri on Twitter @TerriJLee

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