Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Steve James|
|Produced by||Steve James
|Written by||Steve James
|Music by||Ben Sidran|
|Editing by||Steve James
|Distributed by||Fine Line Features|
|Running time||170 minutes|
Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James and written by Steven James and Frederick Marx, 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 ended its run in the box office with $11,830,611 worldwide.
The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American teenagers who are recruited by a scout from St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominantly white high school with an outstanding basketball program, whose alumni include NBA great Isiah Thomas.
Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices, and having to acclimatise 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 economic hardship caused from the school change.
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 film was given as an example to defend the level of U.S. government funding of PBS, which was reduced in the following years.
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. 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.
The film was universally acclaimed by critics. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film "Two Thumbs Up" on their show and both Siskel and Ebert named Hoop Dreams the best film of 1994. Ebert in his initial television review proclaimed "This is one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen", and later called it the best film of the decade. In 2004, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list. The film currently has a 98% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, with only one negative review (against 47 positive). The film was ranked #1 on the International Documentary Association's Top 25 Documentaries list, based on polling of members in 2007.
When the film, along with the equally acclaimed Crumb, was not nominated in the Best Documentary category of the Academy Awards, public outcry led to a revised nomination process in the category, led by Barbara Kopple. According to an angry Roger Ebert, reliable sources said members of the Academy's documentary nomination committee had a system in which one would wave a flashlight on screen when they gave up on the film. When a majority of the lights flashed, the film was turned off. Hoop Dreams didn’t even make it to 20 minutes.
The Academy's Executive Director, Bruce Davis, took the unprecedented step of asking accounting firm Price Waterhouse to turn over the complete results of the voting, in which members of the committee had rated each of the 63 eligible documentaries on a scale of zero to ten. "What I found," said Davis, "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."
- 1994 Sundance Film Festival: Audience Award for Best Documentary
- 1994 Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Documentary
- 1994 Chicago Film Critics Award: Best Picture
- 1994 Producers Guild of America: Special Merit
- 1995 Academy Award Nomination: Best Editing
- 1995 George Foster Peabody Award
- 1995 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Documentary
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Documentary
- Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
- National Film Registry
In 2007, the International Documentary Association named Hoop Dreams as its selection for the all-time greatest documentary.
Neither Agee nor Gates was drafted into 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.[dubious ] 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.
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.
The actual story behind Hoop Dreams was not over even after the film was released. Cable TV channel TNT planned to make a remake of the story as a fictional movie for television. A book based on transcripts from all of the interviews conducted was also released in the spring of 1996. After the release of the film, William went on to play basketball at Marquette University, while Arthur went to play at Arkansas State. However, the National Collegiate Association (NCAA) ruled in 1994 that neither the boys nor their families may receive any money from the sale of the film because they would lose their amateur status and scholarships.
A series of events to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Hoop Dreams took place in Chicago in October and November 2009.
- Harrington, Rob (2009-04-01). "Dreams don't cost a thing". Independent Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- "Ebert's 10 Best Lists: 1967-present". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. April 29, 2003. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "Hoop Dreams - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- Thomas White (Nov/Dec 2007). "IDA's Top 25 Documentaries". Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "The Great American Documentary". Chicago Sun Times. November 5, 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- Pond, Steve, The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards, pg. 74, Faber and Faber, 2005
- Chicagoist: "Hoop Dreams" father slain
- James, Caryn. "Hoop Dreams: Dreaming the Dreams, Realizing the Realities." The New York Times. 7 Oct. 1994. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F05E4DF103DF934A35753C1A962958260>.
- Hoop Dreams at the Internet Movie Database
- Hoop Dreams at allmovie
- Hoop Dreams at Rotten Tomatoes
- Hoop Dreams at Kartemquin Films