'Bobby Fischer Against the World' is a documentary feature exploring the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer. The drama of Bobby Fischer's career was undeniable, ... See full summary »
This documentary follows two inner-city Chicago residents, Arthur Agee and William Gates, as they follow their dreams of becoming basketball superstars. Beginning at the start of their high school years, and ending almost 5 years later, as they start college, we watch the boys mature into men, still retaining their "Hoop Dreams". Both are recruited into the same elite high school as their idol, former Detroit Piston superstar Isiah Thomas. Only one survives the first year; the other must return to a high school closer to his home. Along the way, there is much tragedy, some joy, a great wealth of information about inner city life, and the suspense of not knowing what will occur next. This is not a "by-the-numbers" film. Written by
According to Roger Ebert, after the film failed to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, he and Gene Siskel learned about the nominating process. He said that members of the Academy's documentary committee held flashlights when they watched documentaries, and anyone who had "given up" could wave it against the screen. The movie was turned off if a majority waved their flashlights. Hoop Dreams (1994) was turned off after 15 minutes. See more »
Welcome to the 38th Annual NBA All Star game from Chicago Stadium.
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Thanks to the St. Joseph High School community and Coach Gene Pingatore who agreed to participate in a not for profit Kartemquin Educational film telling William and Arthur's stories. Today, St. Joseph, with a 39% minority enrollment, remains committed to the dream of a better life for all. Awarding need based financial aid to 40% of its students, St. Joseph with limited resources continues to maintain its academic excellence. A Hoop Dreams Fund has been set up to provide academic scholarships. See more »
The filmmakers here show an admirable dedication to their art and to the underprivileged, spending five years tracking two kids, Arthur and William, and their dreams of basketball stardom. The two subjects and their families are simple and somewhat naive, in an endearing way. Their struggles, sometimes unflattering, are put forth for us to relate to, and we all can. Of course this is about two kids and their love for basketball, and about the "road to" that takes place as they try to get there, but it's really about the way people in near-poverty live, the education system and its downfalls, the manipulation of organized sports and tendency for people to try and achieve their goals through others (Arthur's father, William's brother), and the situation between blacks and whites in America. In one scene, Arthur laments being around mainly white kids for the first time in his life, and says it'll be difficult but he'll manage. That kind of relaxed confidence is so rewarding to watch. The film has endless insights into the black urban experience. Of course not every family in the ghetto is in a position where a father is a criminal and drug user, but when two kids in the same story are in that situation, it's got to be somewhat prevalent.
It's the kind of movie that's sustaining, and there are so many transcendent, revealing moments that stand out: Arthur's mother, such an inspirational woman to watch, as she gets her nurse certification; Arthur's family talking to another family in a cafeteria, with his mother high-fiving an elderly white lady; the descent into and path out of drug addiction; and a scene where the man who recruits these boys says that sometimes he has doubts about himself when he sees the pain that's a part of these kids' lives. Spike Lee makes a brief appearance giving a speech to the kids, and his pessimism is the only sore spot in the film.
We don't have to work for any of this, we don't have to question it. There's nothing to clean away before we can get to the real thing. This is the real thing. A curious moment, however, is one scene where Arthur's mother explains to us at one point she had her electricity cut off, which suggests that the crew wasn't there to film that period. But the next scene has her walking in the dark with a lamp, that seems like an undeclared "reenactment" of something they missed, for editing purposes. But the criticism of manipulation in documentaries is tired. Yes, the possibility of tricking an audience into believing something with a documentary is greater, but unless it's political in some respect it doesn't matter. Documentaries are supposed to be presented how the filmmaker sees fit. With no license, we'd have 350-hour documentaries.
At one moment near the end, William's coach says goodbye to him and as he walks out his coach mentions that that's the system: one goes out, another comes in. It feels like we're saying bye to a member of the family. This is a life-affirming experience, a family that should be visited again. 10/10
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