Marshawn Lynch: A History

Official Selection

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam




CARGO FILM & RELEASING in Association With Paradigm Studio Presents






Consulting Producer JOHN W. COMERFORD

Executive Producer DANNY GLOVER

Written, Produced, and Directed by DAVID SHIELDS


World Sales and Theatrical Distribution

Cargo Film and Releasing


Lynch feels like the culmination of Shields’s career. Lynch is loosely chronological, yet it’s propelled by a free-associative rhythm that the viewer slowly settles into. . . Relying on found footage gives Lynch an aura of unscripted authenticity. . . . Shields’s drifting approach allows him to make persuasive and even moving arguments that proceed by accumulation and association rather than by simple exposition. . . . edited together from a dizzying range of sources. . . .   Lynch requires you to make sense of how seven hundred clips—some of them very disturbing—piece together. It begins to seem so startling that such a small gesture, like Lynch refusing to answer a reporter’s query about how he was feeling after practice, could become so disruptive or, as Shields suggests, contagious. . . . When [Lynch] refused to speak to the media, or when, in a 2017 NFL game played in Mexico City, he stood for the Mexican national anthem but not the American one, became a different, and more threatening, kind of symbol. Lynch is at its most stirring in these polemical moments, when Shields’s careful splicing gets at the underlying truths of American life—the outright hostility that lurks just beneath the pundit’s coded innuendo, the paradox of what forms of violence are tolerated.  . . . The film’s relentless rhythm overwhelms and overpowers you, as random acts of terror, across time and space, reveal themselves as a pattern. It’s a gradient of American carnage. . . . Lynch: A History shows that there’s something powerful about the way Lynch protects his spark, shields it from the expectant masses. Sometimes joy is a private matter. . . . ‘Shout out Oakland, California,’ Lynch says at one point, smiling, and you begin to see an entire world in his eyes. . . . ”—Hua Hsu, The New Yorker

Marshawn Lynch: A History is a category of its own. A kind of Godarian rant (if Godard were an NFL fan). A dazzling display of Cuisinarted media shards. A manifesto that compels the viewer to consider the ways in which professional sports are an extension of capitalist exploitation and how management responds when players refuse to play management’s version of the game off the field.”—Ross McElwee, director of Sherman’s March

“A perfectly realized piece of art. It stayed with me.”—Marc Maron, WTF podcast

Lynch: A History awarded the Golden SunBreak Award for best documentary at SIFF: “As much as I enjoyed many other docs this year, they played to the crowd with conventional structures and feel-good endings. So I have to give style points to David Shields for playing with form and building a message that explored media dynamics, social justice, and the legacy of American professional sports through an impressionistic collage. Easily the best doc I saw throughout SIFF 2019.”—The Sunbreak post-SIFF roundtable

“People are going to love this brilliant new documentary. I think it’s about to blow up.”—Dave Zirin, “Edge of Sports” podcast/The Nation


“A breathtaking look at race, masculinity, media, and protest at the turn of the millennium.”—Sara Rosen, Huck Magazine


“To paraphrase its namesake subject, watching Lynch: A History feels like running through the motherfucking face of the traumas of both Black America and the Seattle Seahawks over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Shields connects the journey of a famously reticent Lynch to the long history of black activism in Oakland and our modern day whitelash and the emergence of Trump. . . . However, just as importantly, the film does not linger in the necropolitical imagery of black death; it shows the joy Lynch derives both from running through a motherfucker’s face over and over and over again and from his off-the-field successes. Lynch: A History is not only a portrait of the most interesting and enigmatic Seahawks superstar but is yet another reminder of how deeply the pathology of white supremacy is rooted in the history of this country and in the everyday lived experience of celebrities we think we know. . . . A stirring documentary.”—Spike Friedman, The Stranger


“[The film] is almost jazz-like. Pulling together more than 700 video clips and a handful of literary quotes, Lynch: A History forms a collage around the athlete that spirals out with greater and greater aims. The movie jumps quickly, sans narrator or an overt guiding hand, and yet it tugs its viewers through time, linking sports to mythology to biography to history and back. In a time when outspoken stars are often told to ‘shut up and entertain,’ the documentary makes a strong case for Lynch as a precursor to a time when we know sports are politics and vice versa.”—Zosha Millman, Seattle PI

“Inspired by his subject, Shields goes Beast Mode with his movie and never lets up.”—G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle

“The relentlessness of the cross-cutting images fuses athletics and politics, placing Lynch into a larger historical context that examines this nation’s decades-old clash between sports, racism, and public protest. The movie’s torrent of fast-cutting video snippets from sports, politics, and advertising gives viewers a fresh glimpse at the inner demons that drive Lynch’s success and confuse his critics. Provocative and insightful.”—Chris De Benedetti, East Bay Express


“Shields could hardly have picked a more compelling subject for his directorial debut than Lynch, who is as Oakland as Oakland gets.”—Gary Peterson, San Jose Mercury News 

“Two weeks into the festival and I finally caught a SIFF movie I loved. David Shields’s Marshawn Lynch doc Lynch: A History is essential.”—Sean Gilman, The End of Cinema


“The best new movie I’ve seen [at SIFF] has undeniably been Lynch: A History.”—Tony Kay, The SunBreak


“An amazingly provocative film.”—Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio


“Lynch is a fierce civil rights activist, and he does all of his talking by saying nothing at all. That is Lynch on the field and with the media. He is a force—a player who changed the way black men talk to the media. The film is nicely edited together, and rather than simply being a documentary—the subject, of course, would not play very nicely for a talking heads style approach—it becomes an accessible montage of Lynch’s career as an athlete and  civil rights activist in modern football. A surefire hit for the Seattle International Film Festival, Lynch: A History evokes a great image of a leader who does not have to speak to carry his message. There’s inherent power in Lynch: the figure, the athlete, the beloved son of Oakland. This documentary is just about that action, boss.”—Calvin Kemph, The Twin Geeks

“[Lynch] is one of the most biting, absorbing, and subversively witty documentaries I’ve seen in a while (and I’m coming at this from the standpoint of a dude who normally gives approximately zero fucks about sports).”—Josh Bis, The SunBreak


“Experimental films and I don’t have a good track record, so I was surprised when I enjoyed the film, which builds a narrative entirely out of already existing media.” Greg Salvatore, Murmurs from the Balcony


Lynch: A History offers an engaging portrait of the man, the athlete, his life, and his time, as well as a fascinating experiment in narrative craft, form, and construction.”—Brent McKnight, The Last Thing I See

“The average sports fan conveniently disconnects the black athlete from the black man, much as the average citizen disconnects American history from slavery. In Lynch: A History, David Shields removes all the barriers and connects all the dots. I love this film.”—Alan Grant, former NFL player and writer for ESPN, author of Return to Glory


“A groundbreaking documentary about a silence that isn’t really a silence.”—Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen


“An incredible piece of storytelling, forgoing all the tedium of documentary norms. Hilarious and devastating.”—Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn


“I couldn’t turn it off. Smart, alive, brilliantly arranged, utterly fascinating.” —Guy Maddin, Emmy Award-winning director of The Heart of the World


Lynch: A History opened my eyes to a way of seeing Marshawn Lynch in a wider context. This film is different and real—just like Marshawn, who is as genuine as they come.”—Kenny Mayne, co-host, Sports Center/ESPN


“Finally, the uniqueness of Marshawn Lynch is revealed: he is his own man, his own voice, a complete individual unbeholden to the corporate PR needs of the league. Lynch is an original; so is the movie, which I loved.”—Ron Shelton, director of White Men Can’t Jump


“A complex, graceful, brilliant, and powerful film that lays bare the way American culture confines the black athlete.”—Fred Moody, author of Fighting Chance: A Season with the Seattle Seahawks


“An absolutely great film, which splits America to the core and which I’ll be thinking about for a long time.”—Shann Ray, author of American Masculine


Lynch is masterful and important and above all cumulative: it makes the viewer start to feel a particularly American form of terror, anger, and shame. Devastating.”—Greg Bottoms, author of Lowest White Boy


“A call to arms and a rebuttal to all that’s wrong in the world. Thrilling, brilliant, and necessary.”—Russell Harper, author of Cut