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The Duke

The Duke

Max Barbakow
2016, 23m, comedy, drama, sport

Sidelined by concussions, ex-NFL linebacker J.P. “The Duke” Duke denies the magnitude of his injuries while clinging to gridiron glory. But when J.P.'s pregnant wife, Aubrey, hosts a Super Bowl bash, he faces the realities of life on the sidelines: stodgy neighbors, nacho cheeses, and the looming responsibilities of fatherhood. Stifled by suburbia, J.P. desperately seeks out Wayne Tuttle, his longtime agent and last link to past triumphs. But with Wayne missing in action and the clock winding down, J.P. must dig deep for one last goal line stand.

Produced by: Dan Leonard
Cast: LaMonica Garrett
The 3-week run for The Duke ended on Jan 30th, 2017. Thank you to all the fans that supported it!
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The Ten-Day Interview

5 questions with The Duke director, Max Barbakow at the half-way mark.
Thursday, January 19th, 2017
  1. 1 Hi Max! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial idea that made you want to make this film?
    THE DUKE was inspired by the deluge of news about CTE and concussions troubling NFL players (as well as self-congratulatory ghostwritten athlete autobiographies).
  2. 2 What was it about this concussive haze that you found so interesting? What was it about it that you found fascinating and made you want to make a film around it?
    The issue of concussions in the NFL is certainly topical, and as a former high school quarterback, I was fascinated by the human side of this epidemic... what happens to these behemoth men and how does it feels emotionally for them after they're forced to retire prematurely? I was interested by the idea of exploring a man supremely averse to weakness who is forced to confront his vulnerability. Also, concussion symptoms seemed to provide a lot of opportunities to explore and indulge the cinematic medium a bit.
  3. 3 This is an incredible thesis film that you made at AFI. Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at AFI and some of the pros and cons of film school?
    AFI was an unbelievable opportunity to meet likeminded fellows and mentors for two years and just make stuff. The school is production based, so I learned a lot by directing shorts and making mistakes on set, which is all you can ask for. I bonded with a ton of talented co-conspirators and collaborators who continue to inspire and me who I continue to lean on.
  1. 4 Although this problem with NFL players receiving too many concussions is a real thing, it says this film is based of the memoir "I'm the Duke" by J.P. Duke. I couldn't find any info on this and it seems that you just added that in the title. Could you explain why you chose to make that decision?
    The book is fiction, we made it up! One ambition in making THE DUKE was to experiment with tone. We wanted to make a film that was tragicomic and a bit satirical, something that felt like the experience of watching an entertaining football game that is abruptly interrupted by a devastating injury. We wanted the tone to evoke having one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, and the title seems to speak to that bizarre quality, the form of the story, the self-obsession of the main character, and the grandiosity inherent in America's reverence for its sports stars.
  2. 5 What's next?
    I'm attached to direct my first narrative feature later this year, a gritty, lyrical coming-of-age script (with football elements) set in Detroit.
  3. About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
    Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
    Ben Hicks

The film with the most fans wins $1,000

For 2017 we are moving on from screening feature films and will be showcasing shorts. For our Winter 2017 Festival, we are giving away $2,000 in prizes to the top three films.

Fan Award


The film with the most fans.

Audience Award


The film with the most views.

Jury Award


Our favorite film.

Festival Partners

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