Hoop Dreams

Arguably the best documentary of the '90s and certainly one of the greatest American independent films of all time, Hoop Dreams was shot over five years on video and concerns two black males, William Gates and Arthur Agee. At the start of the film, both are 14 and live in different parts of Chicago. The documentary moves between their lives on basketball courts and in classrooms and apartments, which are small and crammed with children. Both William and Arthur are discovered by an informal talent scout and end up being recruited by a posh high school, St. Joseph High School, in the suburbs. After a few minutes of watching the documentary, you begin to forget that you are watching a documentary. ("This is like a movie," my friend said to me when we watched it a few nights ago.) Its mood, pace, score, sequences, editing, characters, and tensions have the feel of a great drama in the class of The Godfather or Taxi Driver. This dramatic power helped usher in the age of the documentary (and probably the age of reality television, though you can't really blame the film for that). The intimate moments in Hoop Dreams are not forced or staged but artfully timed and articulated, as if framed by an auteur. Read the full review by Charles Mudede
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Steve James