Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James, 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 1994Sundance 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 wo
[hide] *1 Synopsis
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 predominantlywhite high school with an outstanding basketball program, whose alumni include NBA greatIsiah Thomas. Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices, and acclimating 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.
The film raises a number of issues concerning race, class, economic division, education andvalues 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 from their recruitment in 1987 through their college freshman year (1991-92).
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 filmingand (off-camera) provided money for the lights to be turned back on.
According to 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 Dreamsdidn’t even make it to 20 minutes. When the film, as well as equally acclaimed Crumb were 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.
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."
The film was 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). It has a 92% rating from the Rotten Tomatoes community. The film was ranked #1 on the International Documentary Association's Top 25 Documentaries list, based on polling of members in 2007.