“The Duke” a film about ex-NFL linebacker sidelined by traumatic brain injuries

Jul 6, 2016

Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer in Santa Barbara, California for a visit with film director, Max Barbakow.

Winner of the “Best Student Short” at the Pasadena Film Festival, Max Barbakow says, “No matter how much you read or how many documentaries you watch about the long-term impacts of head trauma, none of this media successfully places the viewer inside the mind of a football player afflicted with concussion- induced Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE).

Barbakow adds, “Concussions in football are at once both a hot-button contemporary health crisis and an inconvenience/taboo for the NFL. That was what I aimed to do with THE DUKEpull the viewer into the heartbreaking reality of what life is like for men who must start over all too soon, and whose condition can result in depression, dementia and death.”

Clinging to gridiron glory, Barbakow follows The Duke through a day in the life—it’s Super Bowl Sunday at Duke’s suburban home where friends have gathered. The action is centered on the Duke’s delusional hope of a call from his agent to once again play for the Miami Dolphins.

Deft camera work, utilizing super-tight close ups, combined with powerful, metaphorical soundscapes evoke the sense that you are watching the world through the eyes of “The Duke”. 

Barbakow, who has previously worked under director David O. Russell on AMERICAN HUSTLE, directs a cast led by LaMonica Garrett (BLACK-ISH, DADDY’S HOME, VEEP, TRANSFORMERS: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, SONS OF ANARCHY).

Aside from humanizing this sensationalistic issue, Garrett, who trained with several teams in the NFL before leaving to pursue acting full time, next stars in Michael Bay’s TNT series THE LAST SHIP and the upcoming ABC drama DESIGNATED SURVIVOR with Kiefer Sutherland.

The Duke was featured at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and is a featured film at numerous other film festivals such as CANNES COURT MÉTRAGE, Taos, and Tribeca Film Festival.

Max Barbakow in his hometown of Santa Barbara, California
Credit Thomas Wilmer