Documentary of the Day – Hoop Dreams

This is the portrait of the American Life.  I have never really seen a film that explores the complex issues of life through the story of basketball.  Hoops Dreams is one those films that catch you off guard when you first watch it.  I went in expecting to watch a documentary about two high school kids, competing and hoping for the chance to chase their dream of being drafted into the NBA.  It’s an underdog story with a goal at the end, but the film ended up being something more than a sports film.  How often can you say that a sports film expertly captured the nuances of American life, exploring complex issues like race, poverty, class, and education.

Two young men are followed during their entire high-school career, beginning with their participation in playground games and ending with their being recruited by colleges. The obstacles these young men face include parental drug addiction, family poverty, and inner-city violence, as well as the usual obstacles that arise in competition, including physical injuries. While each aspires to leave the ghetto, there are many reasons to suppose they may not be able to, despite each beating the odds against them by winning college scholarships. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

I was surprised at how moving this documentary was.  Under the guise of a sports film, Hoop Dreams managed to transcend the intended purpose of filming street ball, pickup games and ended up following two high school kids for 5 years all the way to their first year in college.  It is the quintessential underdog story of inner city youth struggling to cope with a changing environment and achieve their dream of playing professional basketball.  It’s compelling in the sense that the narrative is the stuff that writers dream of coming up with to make into a movie.  This is as real as a story about youth and sports, attaining that ultimate goal, and making it out of their social setting can be put to film.

The true analysis of the documentary comes from the fact that the documentary ended up being something more than a short, fluff piece.  The documentary team ended up exploring the social issues that plague our society, especially in the inner city.  Violence, poverty, low social status and all the trapping of the “ghetto” are on display, but the a humanistic and endearing family structure shows that there is a ray hope amongst all the pitfalls in society for these young kids.  You watch, time and time again, the strong family bond and the upbringing of the kids to make something of themselves and being pushed to the limit of their abilities, all for that chance to make it out.

Hoop Dreams manages to mix both the American Dream and the perception of an American nightmare all in one, 3-hour long documentary.  It might seem daunting to watch, but so is the struggle that the two teens go through to have a chance to move up in life.  The exploration of social division, both educational and economic, does more to open up a dialogue about this divide in our country.  It is the glimmer of hope amongst the rubble that keeps the family together and continues to elevate the teens to achieve something that so few would get a chance to do.  If you are a sports fan, this is a must for you.  I am not a big sports watcher, but I do like sports movies and Hoop Dreams is by far and away the best film out there.  Even today, it still holds up as,  some people will deny, things really haven’t changed in society even 18 years after this was made.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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