Hoop Dreams (1994) Directed by Steve James
We're here in the individualist state. Fuck all others brothers. I want everything for free and who gives a shit if anyone gets paid for it. It's 2014 I'm told, are you a dinosaur? Stop standing in the way of progress Grandpa Indie. Creativity costs but nobody wants to pay. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The last few years has seen a new kind of ghetto grow, the virtual one. A generational squeeze of poverty handed down to your children. We don't try to solve poverty and hardship, we just exploit poverty for our own selfish benefit. I'm as bad as the next consumerist. UKIP on the rise. The right gets bigger, what you gonna do? What do you stand for? Isn't it time to take a stand on something? For some people the stand you take is the striving for survival.
Before I get into why I enjoyed Hoop Dreams a lot, let me tell you that I don't understand basketball at all. I used to run away from the ball so it would not hurt my hands while trying to catch it. I don't know the rules of the game either. I also have a strong dislike for professional sports in general – it's because of a lack of understanding and experience. The thought of running after a ball tirelessly for days and years or skiing in circles in very cold conditions just to be really fast makes me anxious. I always worry about people getting bored while playing their sport. Then there is the big money. How confusing. Insert Hoop Dreams.
This documentary is still as valid as it was in the 1990s. Hoop Dreams shows through two children's life experience how there is a system in place, where a very poor person with special skills in a specific sport can be taken into a 'better' school to be trained in his sport and to play for the school's team. The aim is to pay the child's education while benefitting from his skills in the games – then the teenager can continue into the best high school level teams and onwards to college basketball and maybe even become a professional. Hoop Dreams shows that while the good players and scouts are black, the guys with the money are white middle aged men. Charity or genuine concern for these individual children hardly figures here – what matters is that the white guy has the winning team. If the players stop being amazingly good in their field, they are worth nothing to the school.
Even to a sport idiot like myself Hoop Dreams shows how beautiful basketball can be. I can see the skills of Arthur Agee and William Gates. Still, it becomes clear that for these young men and their families, being excellent at basketball is the only possible way out of their poverty. The society does not care for their plight, so therefore an individual, a child, has to attempt the impossible and change a whole family's prospect for a future. By playing ball. It's an unbelievable injustice highlighted – mixing sports and money. Think of the 2014 football world cup about to begin in Brazil. But this documentary is elevating, because Agee and Gates have grace.