"Hoop Dreams” - a film about the lives of two children chasing their dream of becoming part of the NBA
What path must the ghetto boys and their families take?
Sports movies that rely on a plot where a poor, unhappy, discriminated kid achieves his dream, or to put it another way, the underdog manages to win against the favorites, may seem like an already worn pattern. However, if such a production relies on a true story, tells it in a unique way, interweaves it with lessons and inspires millions of people, then we cannot say that it does not do well. This is exactly the case with "Hoop Dreams", or in Bulgarian translation "Hoop of dreams". This film transports us to another universe, shakes us and makes us think in new ways about the world around us, creates the impression that we have touched the lives of the characters.
"Hoop Dreams" is a documentary about two African-American kids named William Gates and Arthur Agee, who live in downtown Chicago and are talented basketball players, therefore dreaming of playing in the NBA. At the same time, this work by director Steve James and screenwriters Frederick Marks and Steve James touches far on important themes such as ambition, competition, issues of racism and class in society, on values and on the everyday life of families like those of the main characters. This life cannot be seen in the mainstream media, but it is so determined and resilient that it gives tremendous hope.
The film spans six years of William and Arthur's lives, starting when they are in eighth grade and continuing through their freshman year of college. Intended to be a short, 30-minute film, the filmmakers decided to stretch it to almost three hours, as they realized the importance of the topics covered and the length of the story they had to tell in full. This allows viewers to step into the shoes of the characters and walk the path to success with them.
A scout from St. Joseph's High School spots the boys' talent during street games. However, moving them there would mean a long commute to school. This does not in any way shake the boys and their parents, because Isaiah Thomas, who reached the NBA, began his growth from this high school.
Gates and Agee's journey to suburban Westchester is symbolic of the hard work that everyone must put in to reach their dreams and climb to the top of the pyramid of success. They travel 90 minutes each day, even in the cold winter mornings, before dawn. They do all this, although their chance of success is far less than half a percent, as we are told in the film itself.
"Hoop Dreams" is not just a movie about basketball. It is about the reality of daily existence in a huge American city. And as it follows Agee and Gates from high school through their freshman year of college, we can all understand the human dimensions behind the rudimentary media portrayals of ghetto life. We learn how their extended families come together to help increase the children's chances of success. We learn how if one family member is going through serious problems, the others help them get back on their feet, or just become stronger. Such is the case surrounding Arthur's father, who is struggling with his drug addiction.
The film shows extremely real information about life in the poor black urban neighborhoods, more real than any other production. It can show us how one mother, Arthur's, manages to get by on $268 a month and find the determination and hope to pursue her dream of completing her nursing education.
From all this, we understand how much the main characters have to overcome themselves in order to realize their goal, to fulfill their dream and reach the NBA. It's clear that they get high school scholarships because of their talent, that they are recruited as athletes and nothing more. But this is no accident, because no suburban high school would send scouts downtown just like that.
Despite the scholarships, the families of the two also have to cover part of the tuition costs. Here comes the difference, because Gates has a sponsor to cover the money when his parents are having difficulties. However, Arthur doesn't seem that talented and has to drop out of school because both of his parents have lost their jobs. If he had lived up to high school expectations, he certainly wouldn't have been let go so easily. Here comes the question, if you give a hand to such a boy, should you let it go at the first more serious problem?
We can also find out about the truth of the story thanks to the series of twists and turns in the boys' lives and development. No one could have invented such events. The dramatic turning points in the lives of the two young men are simply incredible. Their fates can draw you in, because no matter how bleak life may seem, then comes hope, and sometimes triumph.
"Hoop Dreams" is not just a documentary. It is poetry and prose, slaughter and exposure, journalism and polemic. It is one of the great movie experiences, beautifully telling a remarkable story of two poor boys chasing their big dream thanks to their talent.