Originally intended to be a 30-minute short produced for the Public Broadcasting Service, it eventually led to 5 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.
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 acclimatising 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.
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.
Hoop Dreams received an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing, but was not nominated for Best Documentary Feature. This omission was criticized by Roger Ebert, who called Hoop Dreams better than any of the films that were nominated that year. The decision was also mocked during the Oscar ceremony by host David Letterman; in a list of "Top Ten Signs the Movie You are Watching Will Not Win an Academy Award", number six was "It's a beautifully made documentary about two boys in the inner city trying to realize their dream of playing professional basketball." It also led to changes in the nomination procedure for the Best Documentary Oscar.
Film critic Roger Ebert named Hoop Dreams the best film of the 1990s. This movie ranked number 33 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
Since the release of the film in 1994 both Arthur's father (Bo Agee) and William's older brother (Curtis Gates) were murdered in Chicago in unrelated homicides. Both individuals were featured prominently in the film.
Hoop Dreams is currently available on DVD, released through the Criterion Collection.
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.
For 'Hoop Dreams' scholars, quitting is the only unavailable option; The work of one woman has helped more than 800 inner-city youths better themselves through mentoring, tutoring, and scholarships.(FEATURES)(CURRENTS)
Nov 16, 2006; Byline: Melanie D.G. Kaplan Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON -- On a rainy Saturday in late September at...