Hoop Dreams (1994)

I've been meaning to watch Hoop Dreams for a very long time but I kept putting it off because of its length, two hours and fifty minutes. I had pretty high expectations because it is featured in the book of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and I've only heard great things about it.

Hoop Dreams follows five years in the lives of two African-American teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, both from inner-city Chicago, both dreaming of becoming professional basketball players, and both recruited by St. Joseph High School, a majority-white school, the same school their idol Isiah Thomas came from. It shows what their lives were like, the struggles they had to face on a daily basis.

It's a story filled with tragedies and disappointments, but also some joy and triumphs; there's suspense of not knowing what will happen next to these two young men; most of all, there's real drama, a drama that is, or at least should be, more compelling than scripted drama.

In spite of all those good qualities, I didn't love Hoop Dreams as it failed to engage me. One of the reasons is the narration by director and co-writer Steve James. I love a good narration, but James's was too distracting and moreover didn't add anything to the film.

Then there's the fact that the documentary tells two stories, one in a way better way than the other, and unfortunately, the one that is told in the most beautiful way is also the less interesting of the two. I'm talking about William's. His life wasn't that hard if you compare it to Arthur's, and his only major obstacle was himself. At some point, he struggled in his school work as he was only interested in basketball but eventually started to work hard to make the grades and keep the scholarship. He had a knee injury, but he fucked up his future by playing when he wasn't fully healed.

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On the other hand, there's Arthur. Sure, he didn't work as hard as William, he kind of complained about having to be in a school and team with a lot of white people, and at some point, he just stopped caring altogether. But you have to consider what he went through. Not only he had to deal with his family's extreme poverty, but also with his father who was in and out of the picture, and his mother's inability to keep a job because of her health issues. I just felt like the film didn't focus on Arthur's story as much as it should have, that's all.

There's something about Hoop Dreams that I really liked and it is its social commentary on how the system (still) treats black people unfairly.

1 comment :

  1. I saw this in full last year as I think it is pretty much one of the most quintessential documentary films ever. I never got bored with it as I was just enthralled by it. Sorry it didn't work for you.