For this week’s assignment, I chose to watch Hoop Dreams. This documentary chronicled the lives of two young basketball players—William Gates and Arthur Agee—who had dreams of making it into the NBA. The filmmaker used various techniques to develop this story over a five-year period, exposing the reality of the hardships that poor, black families faced in Chicago, Illinois.
The filmmaker’s point was to show the hardships that young, black American men faced in a poverty-stricken area, while also showing the cut-throat “business-side” of high school basketball programs. The filmmaker used various filming techniques and footage to dramatically depict this reality, and he emphasized race and socio-economic class.
Throughout the film, close-up or medium close-up shots would be used as various individuals were interviewed. This forced the audience to focus on the message they creatively selected to make their point. Agee’s mother was clearly asked questions about her financial status to emphasize her struggles of going on welfare. Long shots were used to contrast the poor neighborhoods with the wealthier neighborhoods, as well as the poor school in comparison to the wealthier school.
In addition, music was used to emphasize racism. In one scene, Arthur Agee was listening to a song on the radio that began with a very racist rant, calling black people “apes” and other derogatory terms, symbolizing the supposed view of whites toward blacks. Other rap songs with strong lyrics about race were also a part of this movie, especially as they were driving in the car.
Furthermore, Spike Lee made an appearance, and he told the boys, “The only reason you are here is because you can make their schools win, and they can make a lot of money.” This idea of only using the boys to make money was a big theme in this movie. The filmmaker creatively selected scenes and interviews that clearly portrayed this agenda: Gates, the rising star, was given preferential treatment and sponsorship for tuition, whereas Agee was quickly dropped from the school when his performance lagged—they even withheld his transcripts until he could pay the debt he owed, which could have prevented his graduation.
The scenes of Gate’s coach depicted him as a heartless man who only cared about winning. He was very cold and rude to his players, constantly putting them down. At the end of the film, he even seemed to view the players as nothing but another number, saying, “One goes out, one comes in. That’s the way it is.” It’s possible that he wasn’t always like this, but the editing emphasized this side of his character.
My response to this film was that it was very well made. It opened my eyes to a lot of the injustice that happens in the world, and I was astonished to learn the cut-throat nature of high school basketball. It also caused me to reflect on life’s journey and how we all change. After watching the film, I immediately wanted to know how the two boys’ lives transpired. Gates became a preacher, and Agee started a clothing line. Fascinating!
If I had the chance to create a documentary, it would probably be something similar to this one. I’ve always loved biographies and biopics, because I love seeing how an individual’s life changes over time. It would be interesting to follow a person or group of persons during their journey of achieving some goal.