The Lafayette Times

Cinema Revisited – “Hoop Dreams” (1994)

In honor of March Madness, a look back on two students and their three-pointer shot for fame

Jack Renuad, Staff Writer

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Documentaries have always been a very special genre of film to me, and for good reason. It’s as real as film can get – because they are real. These films show raw emotion, struggle, hope, and conflict, and “Hoop Dreams” is no exception.

 

William Gates and Arthur Agee are two African American basketball enthusiasts, recruited to play for St. Joseph’s prestigious (and predominately white) program, boasting NBA Isaiah Thomas as an alumni. Beginning each day with a 90 minute commute to their new school, the film follows the two as they take their own paths through High School, while dealing with issues ranging from welfare troubles to academic troubles.

 

This is not a basketball movie. This is a drama. The film dives into themes such as race, social class, and seeing how these issues affect the urban-Chicago lifestyle. After my initial viewing, I read several articles discussing the five-year endeavor. I learned the Agee household lost electricity due to failure to pay bills, and the producers had to fork over some cash to continue the shoot, causing budget problems, going to show that these films depict reality, and not fantasy.

 

Although receiving highest distinction from several top critics groups, it was snubbed for a nomination in the Best Documentary category at the 67th Academy Awards. Executive Director of the Academy Bruce Davis made the unprecedented move of asking accountants at Price Waterhouse (accountants which tally Oscar votes) to turn over the voting results. “What I found is that a small group of members gave zeros to every single film except the five they wanted to see nominated. And they gave tens to those five, which completely skewed the voting. There was one film that received more scores of ten than any other, but it wasn’t nominated. It also got zeros from those few voters, and that was enough to push it to sixth place” stated Davis. “Hoop Dreams” was that one film.

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Cinema Revisited – “Hoop Dreams” (1994)