GHOSTS OF EMPIRE, a feature-length documentary essay, unpacks the romanticized past of American football to explore its current moment of crisis. The film juxtaposes an analysis of the game’s heroic treatment in the narrative documentaries of NFL Films with a reflection on football’s concussion epidemic and its fallout. It interweaves testimonies of former pros suffering from degenerative brain disease with images and accounts of adolescents playing football today.
After years of denial by the NFL, football’s connection with long-term brain damage has finally come to light, throwing the future of the game into question. We have reached an inflection point: Fewer kids are playing the sport – primarily because their parents won’t allow them to – but will Americans ever stop consuming football? If not, why not? Who will be left to fulfill America’s insatiable desire for football, and what does this reveal about the economic and racial structures of the NFL?