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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hoop Dreams is a powerful documentary that provides an excellent way for families to talk about big issues like race and class in urban America, long-term goals, and teen sex and drug use. Almost three hours long, it features lots of intense discussion by two young men about their experiences with parental separation and divorce, extreme poverty, sport-related injuries, urban blight and violence, and teen pregnancy, all while they're trying to earn college basketball scholarships. There's some strong language in the locker room and from basketball coaches, including "bulls--t," as well as a scene in which one of the characters listens to music with particularly strong lyrics.
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What's the story?
HOOP DREAMS follows the trials and tribulations of two young African-American basketball standouts from Chicago. Following the boys from eighth grade through their senior year in high school, director Steve James offers an intense look at the often depressing situation facing many young people who live in inner cities: parents, siblings, and friends all struggling with vastly limited opportunities, potentially fatal temptations, and overwhelmingly poor odds. That William Gates and Arthur Agee are gifted athletes provides them with the potential to avoid the predicaments of those they love by winning basketball scholarships to college -- and maybe, just maybe, a ticket to the NBA.
Is it any good?
This film's greatest strength is that it is pragmatic before it is hopeful. James is careful to highlight the many obstacles standing in Gates and Agee's way: from corner drug dealers to test scores, from tuition payments at ritzy private schools to parental desertion. Rather than providing viewers with a candy-coated confection of "local boy makes good," Hoop Dreams illustrates how nearly impossible it is for such a story to even take place -- and that frequently it's a result of things completely out of the boys' control. The result is a searing portrait of inner-city life in America, and the extraordinary, downright unfair expectations placed on the shoulders of many young African-American athletes.
Hoop Dreams painstakingly tempers the romanticism characteristic high school athletes by paying special attention to the many roadblocks that stand in the way of Gates and Agee's dreams. This movie provides an excellent way for families to talk about issues such as race and class in urban America, long-term goals, teen sex and drug use, and getting good grades.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the experiences of William Gates and Arthur Agee both on and off the high school basketball court in Hoop Dreams. How are William and Arthur's high school experiences different? How are they the same? How do their family environments both help and hurt each of them?
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:
EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">How are issues of race and class intertwined, especially in urban America? What insight into those issues does this movie provide?
What do you think about the boys' long-term goals? What are your long-term goals?
Do you think the media glamorizes professional sports and sports stars? If so, is that a positive or negative thing?
- In theaters: January 1, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: May 10, 2005
- Cast: Arthur Agee, Emma Gates, William Gates
- Director: Steve James
- Studio: Criterion Collection
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 171 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, some drug content, and some sexual references.
- Last updated: March 24, 2020
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