“Against the odds. All heart. Together as one.”
Those powerful words appeared onscreen at the end of The Nomads and underscored the fellowship that a rugby program brought to a group of students that had lost the schools they once called their own.
The 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival ended Sunday night with a world premiere of “The Nomads,” an inspirational movie inspired by the North Philadelphia men’s rugby team. Following its premiere, The Nomads won the inaugural Filmadelphia Audience Award.
Directed by Brandon Eric Kamin, “The Nomads” stars actress Tika Sumpter of ABC’s “Mixed-ish” and veteran actor Tate Donovan. The film takes viewers back to 2013 and a time when the Philadelphia School District faced $1.35 billion in debt. To keep financial matters from getting worse, the district closed 23 schools in order to save $24 million and displaced many students in the process.
To give students an outlet, a rugby club was formed that would help students develop camaraderie with their peers and later see them competing against some of the best rugby clubs in the area.
An infectious energy overtook the audience over the course of the film screening, which had members of the Nomads teams the inspired the film. Three real-life Nomads players made apperances in the movie.
Kamin was first captivated by a news article about the Nomads and eventually had the idea for his first feature film.
“I think all of us in Philadelphia have a connectivity with our underdog mentality as a blue-collar town. When the opportunity to make my first indie happened and they gave me the autonomy to pick my subject matter I picked the Nomads, no questions asked,” Kamin said.
Philadelphia native Devon Ray played gifted rugby player Kahlil in The Nomads and took pride in his role. “We’ve been waiting on this for years,” Ray said. “Right when we got the role I said, ‘Alright. No one is going to do this better than me. I’m going to practice every single day. I’m from Philly and I can be in 100 more movies than this, but my grandkids would know about this. Schools closed down and I could have gone to one of those schools.”
Kamin based the fictional Nomad team members on players he researched over five years of Nomad teams. “We wanted to capture the spirit of the team,” Kamin said.
“With the casting, we had five years of players with different characteristics and merged people so that different characters had their own conflicts to overcome.”
With his movie completed, Kamin is optimistic that The Nomads can start discussions around the importance of school funding and the positive effects that extracurricular programming can have on the morale of students.
“With this movie, hopefully we create discourse and conversation around school funding and giving opportunities to kids.”
The students that eventually went from several schools into one were once nomads, but this film makes one thing abundantly clear: They are nomads in name only and the fellowship that rugby gave them is a bond that could never be broken.