Hoop Dreams


1994 – Directed by Steve James

I did not see Hoop Dreams when it came out, and am left wondering how it must have felt to see it in the mid 90s. I’m kind of kicking myself, due to the fact that now, it is basically an historical document of a different era.

Obviously, a generation has passed, and our way of viewing the film is entirely different. William Gates’ son, William Gates, Jr., is now off to college at Furman University. Both families from the story have dealt with unbelievable loss. Neither Gates nor Arthur Agee made it into the NBA. Perhaps their lives are better than if they had not gone through the journey of this massive documentary: we can’t know, and never will.

There’s potentially so much to cover about this movie: I became really interested in both the back story around the documentary and the continuing stories.

This is well worth reading:

Essentially, it is amazing the movie ever got made.

Documentary film is probably my most loved genre, yet it is impossible to make a documentary that is not problematic, in terms of both the observer’s paradox, and in terms the constant battle documentarians face not patronize their subjects, no matter what tactics and strategies they use. James takes on these challenges with full awareness, if not full resolution, of these problems.

The movie looks amazingly good, with the new digital restoration (made possible by the Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Academy Film Archive and Kartemquin Films), considering that it is almost entirely made from late 80s/early 90s camcorder footage.

Next up:
El Norte, 1983, Directed by Gregory Nava


Icon of the Day – Genre of the Day – Documentary


I am thinking this is very abstract, but this was also given clearance by a very concrete-minded visual thinking child. The kid even had the idea (one we thought about, too, but where did this come from?) to make the background color a photographer’s middle gray. The notion is that the camera is on top, the projector is on bottom, and together they form a kind of programmable “black box” through which the algorithm of documentary filmmaking production decisions are made. No, documentary is not “reality”. But perhaps it is an attempt at direct experience.

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