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Roger Ebert on Hoop Dreams

Roger Ebert on Hoop Dreams

A film like “Hoop Dreams” is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.

“Hoop Dreams” is, on one level, a documentary about two African-American kids named William Gates and Arthur Agee, from Chicago's inner city, who are gifted basketball players and dream of someday starring in the NBA. On another level, it is about much larger subjects: about ambition, competition, race and class in our society. About our value structures. And about the daily lives of people like the Agee and Gates families, who are usually invisible in the mass media, but have a determination and resiliency that is a cause for hope....

One image from the film: Gates, who lives in the Cabrini Green project, and Agee, who lives on Chicago's South Side, get up before dawn on cold winter days to begin their daily 90-minute commute to Westchester [where they attend St. Joseph High School on basketball scholarships]. The streetlights reflect off the hard winter ice, and we realize what a long road—what plain hard work—is involved in trying to get to the top of the professional sports pyramid....

We know all about the dream. We watch Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas and the others on television, and we understand why any kid with talent would hope to be out on the same courts someday. But “Hoop Dreams” is not simply about basketball. It is about the texture and reality of daily existence in a big American city.

Ebert, Roger. “Hoop Dreams.” Chicago Sun-Times, October 21, 1994.