GroudokaHG’s review published on Letterboxd:
"You'll play basketball my way. My way is hard."
Hooptober N.0: WH/AT--
Now that I'm finished making the worst joke associated with this terrific film, it's time I gush about it. I am someone who doesn't care about basketball whatsoever, and it was a challenge finding the motivation to watch a three hour documentary about it. However, Hoop Dreams is a prime example of three-hour films as a whole that earn their running time. Not only that, but it's about far more than the sport. The very heart of the American Dream gets analyzed through these real stories. It's a dissection of the American school system, a compassionate look into the urban experience, and so much more. Steve James and his crew filmed over 250 hours of footage to bring together the most heartwarming accomplishments, devastating failures, and resonating commentary of American life.
Arthur and William, along with their families, are among the best documentary subjects of all time; it's to the point where I hate to call them that. All of their hopes, struggles, and drama are brutally honest and captivating. It leaves the audience wondering how none of this got scripted, but that's because Hoop Dreams ascends beyond the idea of a script. It's the reality of their story and countless kids in the past and present that try to achieve the same dream. I went to a 'ghetto' school when I was in high school and still live in a similar environment. I had always wondered why children like this are hard-set on a dream that few could ever achieve. Hoop Dreams was quite an eye-opener. Many of these kids go through so much heartbreaking tragedy in their home lives, and basketball happens to be their only outlet. It gives me so much more respect for the sport and the struggles of kids who want to play.
However, Hoop Dreams doesn't let this thesis dominate the documentary. It's not all about the struggles; it's about the people who have them. It's about them still holding onto hope during these hard times. It's about their world presented in the quick span of three hours. It's a documentary that perfectly captures the essence of a sports film, to the point where no others need to exist. The only issue I have is with the voiceover narration, which so rarely pops up that I almost forgot it existed when typing up this review. Besides, this was at a time where documentaries that didn't have voiceover were exceptionally few cases, so I'll let Hoop Dreams off the hook for that. The only other problem I had with Hoop Dreams is entirely subjective, as I never wanted it to end. Hoop Dreams deserves every accolade and praise it gets. It's a monument of documentary filmmaking and the best piece of media about sports I have ever experienced. It's a crucial piece of American film, and it should be mandatory viewing for just about everybody. It's only because of the standards I've recently placed on myself that I'm not classifying this as an instant favorite.