Hoop Dreams (1994) Poster



The film was originally intended to be a 30-minute PBS special about multiple players on a single basketball court. After 5 years, the filmmakers had shot 250 hours of footage, which was trimmed down to 3 hours.
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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.
When the film failed to be nominated for Best Documentary, even though it was nominated for Best Film Editing, Entertainment Weekly ran a story about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected documentary nominations. Most of the voting members were not documentary filmmakers, and many worked against nominating the film. As a result, the rules were changed to allow documentary filmmakers to vote in that category.
During filming, the electricity was turned off in the Agee home. The filmmakers paid for the lights to be turned back on.
To stay eligible for college basketball (according to NCAA rules), neither player's family received any money for the film's sale while in school. Agee and Gates were later made full partners and received shares equal to the producers'.
St. Joseph High School filed a lawsuit to prevent the film from being released to theaters. They claimed they were told the film would only air on PBS, and accused the filmmakers of misrepresenting and defaming the school. The two sides reached a settlement, and the filmmakers created an academic fund at the school.
Many of the locations used in the movie are either gone or substantially different. The neighborhood around the Cabrini-Green housing project, where one of the players lived, underwent "gentrification" soon after the film wrapped. The baseball field has been replaced by luxury condos and a shopping complex. The last Cabrini-Green apartment building was demolished in May 2011.
Among the players at the Nike Summer Camp that William Gates attended, you can see Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard of the famed 'Fab Five' class.
Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in November 1997.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Both players suffered much tragedy after filming wrapped. In 1994, Arthur Agee's older half-brother, DeAntonio, was gunned down at Cabrini-Green. In 2001, William Gates' brother, Curtis, was killed in a carjacking. In 2004, Arthur's father, Bo, was shot to death in an alley. On Nov. 4, 2009, at a 15th anniversary screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Arthur told the audience that ten of his friends from the film had died.
In a 2010 interview with Bill Simmons, Steve James claimed he had only two small regrets about the documentary. First, he would've shot more footage of Arthur at school to show his academic struggles. Second, he would've included footage of Arthur auditioning as Isiah Thomas for A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story (1989).

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