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Hoop Dreams
Directed by Steve James
Produced by Peter Gilbert
Steve James
Frederick Marx
Written by Steve James
Frederick Marx
Starring William Gates
Arthur Agee
Studio Kartemquin Films
Distributed by Fine Line Features
Release date(s) 14 October 1994
Running time 170 minutes
Language English

Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James, with Kartemquin Films. It follows the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players.

Originally intended to be a 30-minute short produced for the Public Broadcasting Service, it eventually led to five years of filming and 250 hours of footage. It premiered at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. Despite its length (171 minutes) and unlikely commercial genre, it received high critical and popular acclaim. It was on more critics' top ten lists than any other film that year, including Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Heavenly Creatures and Quiz Show.

It ended it's run in the box office with $11,830,611 worldwide.

Contents

Synopsis

The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American teenagers who are recruited by St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominantly white high school with an outstanding basketball program. Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices, and acclimating to a foreign social environment, Gates and Agee struggle to improve their athletic skills in a job market with heavy competition. Along the way, their families celebrate their successes and support each other during times of hardship.

The film raises a number of issues concerning race, class, economic division, education and values in contemporary America. It also offers one of the most intimate views of inner-city life to be captured on film. Yet it is also the human story of two young men, their two families and their community, and the joys and struggles they live through over a period of five years.

Funding

Seed money for Hoop Dreams came from several sources, including the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, and PBS member station KTCA in Minnesota. Kartemquin Films of Chicago is credited as a production organization along with KTCA. The movie was given as an example to defend the level of U.S. government funding of PBS, which was reduced in the following years.

Filming

The film was originally intended by filmmakers Peter Gilbert, Steve James, and Frederick Marx to be a 30-minute short, shot in three weeks, to be aired on PBS, focusing on one playground court and its young players.[1] The filmmakers followed the children back to their homes, and after nearly eight years, and with over 250 hours of raw footage, a 30-minute PBS special turned into a three-hour feature film on the lives of Gates and Agee, while grossing $7.8 million.

At one point, the electricity was turned off in the Agee home; the filmmakers continued filming and (off-camera) provided money for the lights to be turned back on.[1]

Reception

When the film was not nominated in the Best Documentary category of the Academy Awards, public outcry led to a revised nomination process in the category.[1]

The movie was acclaimed by critics. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film "Two Thumbs Up" on their show. Roger Ebert named Hoop Dreams the best film of 1994[2], and later called it the best film of the decade.[2]

Awards

VHS Cover.

In 2007, the International Documentary Association named Hoop Dreams as its selection for the all-time greatest documentary.[1]

Aftermath

Neither Agee nor Gates made the NBA. Nonetheless, both young men were able to turn the film's success and their subsequent fame into a better life for themselves and their families. They took the money generated from the film and bought better housing. Additionally Arthur Agee, the younger of the two basketball players, launched a foundation promoting higher education for inner city youth and began the "Hoop Dreams" sportswear line in 2006. Gates has also risen above his earlier circumstances while giving back to the community as senior pastor at Living Faith Community Center in Cabrini-Green, where he works at the Kids' Club.[3]

The families of both men have experienced losses since the release of the film. On Thanksgiving morning 1994, Agee's older half-brother, DeAntonio, was gunned down at Cabrini-Green. In September 2001, Gates' older brother, Curtis, 36, was shot to death in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Arthur's father, Bo Agee, was murdered in 2004.

A series of events to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Hoop Dreams are planned to take place in Chicago in October and November 2009.[4]

References

External links

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