2014 Sundance Docs in Focus: HOOP DREAMS

hoop dreamsThe final doc profile for this year’s Sundance looks at the nonfiction offering in From the Collection: Steve James’ classic HOOP DREAMS.

Sundance Program Description:

That Roger Ebert selected this three-hour documentary as the best film of the 1990s is just the first of many remarkable things about HOOP DREAMS. Steve James’s insightful and compassionate film follows two teenagers who hope to escape their inner-city Chicago neighborhoods by parlaying their basketball skills into NBA careers for five years. Arthur Agee and William Gates both receive scholarships to St. Joseph’s, a suburban Catholic high school with one of the best basketball programs in the state. When Agee leaves for financial reasons to attend Marshall Metro, his neighborhood high school, the film counterpoints their stories as they try to lead their teams to the state finals.

But HOOP DREAMS is about much more than two young men pursuing their American dream. Peter Gilbert’s camera and Fred Marx’s empathetic editing embed us deeply into the lives of the Gates and Agee families, and we share their triumphs and tragedies. Ultimately, HOOP DREAMS is a testimony to the loving support of these families and a tribute to the resilient strength of two mothers—Sheila Agee and Emma Gates—who refuse to let family setbacks damage their sons’ chances for a successful, more fulfilling life.

HOOP DREAMS won the documentary Audience Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and made more top-10 lists than any other film that year. The newly restored, high-definition digital master we are screening is the result of a collaborative project by Sundance Institute, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Academy Film Archive branch of AMPAS, and Kartemquin Films.

Some Background:
This film marked James’ first to screen in Park City. To date, he’s brought four more – PREFONTAINE (1997), STEVIE (2003, cinematography award), REEL PARADISE (2005), and THE INTERRUPTERS (2011) – with the sixth, LIFE ITSELF, premiering in this year’s edition. James’ fellow producers were Frederick Marx, who also edited, and Peter Gilbert, who was also the film’s cinematographer. Gilbert had also shot Sundance alums AMERICAN DREAM (1991, multiple awards), and THE LONG WAY HOME (1990), and went on to produce and shoot PREFONTAINE and STEVIE, as well as James’ AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR, and several other projects. Executive producers were Kartemquin’s Gordon Quinn, who later served in the same role for THE INTERRUPTERS, STEVIE, and HOOP DREAMS, as well as producing and shooting STEVIE; and Catherine Allan, who also executive produced Sundance alum SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME (2012). Also editing the film together with James and Marx was William Haugse, who went on the cut Sundance alums NO IMPACT MAN (2009) and STEVIE.

Despite overwhelming critical support for HOOP DREAMS, a skewed voting system shut the film out from an Oscar nomination, leading to public outcry and calls to revise the nomination process.

Why You Should Watch:
I previously wrote about the doc here.

More Info:
For more information, visit the film’s website. At Sundance, the doc will screen on Monday, January 20 – click the link in the first paragraph for more information.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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