School Climate & Safety

‘Hoop Dreams’ Guns for Academy Award Long Shot

By Mark Walsh — February 15, 1995 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The producers of the acclaimed documentary “Hoop Dreams,” which chronicles the basketball aspirations of two young Chicagoans, will learn this week whether their own quixotic dreams of film glory come true.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was to announce its Oscar nominations on Feb. 14. Fine Line Features, the distributor of “Hoop Dreams,” has spent thousands of dollars to persuade academy members to make the film the first documentary ever nominated for best picture.

The executive producer of “Hoop Dreams” said last week the odds of snagging that nomination were as long as the chances of the film’s young stars making it to the National Basketball Association.

“The best-picture nomination is a real long shot,” said Gordon Quinn, the founder and head of Kartemquin Films of Chicago, one of the film’s co-producers. “But you never know because we’ve had so many surprises already.”

The film, meanwhile, has drawn thumbs-down reviews from officials at the Roman Catholic high school where much of it was shot. In a lawsuit that was said last week to be nearing a settlement, the school challenged the way it was depicted in the film.

Small Beginnings

“Hoop Dreams” started out some eight years ago, planned as a short documentary about playground basketball in Chicago. It turned into an extraordinary longitudinal study of two black 8th-grade boys who were recruited to St. Joseph’s High School, a suburban basketball powerhouse that was once home to the N.B.A. star Isiah Thomas.

When the producers decided to follow William Gates and Arthur Agee through high school, they envisioned a documentary that would air on public television.

But things changed when the three-hour film opened to critical acclaim last year at the respected Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Fine Line snapped up “Hoop Dreams” and released it to theaters in October.

Fine Line has waged a full-fledged Academy Award campaign, including trade magazines, special screenings, and mailings to academy members.

Mr. Quinn said that he would be satisfied even if “Hoop Dreams” earned an Oscar nomination in the less-glamorous documentary category. Regardless of what happens with the Academy Awards, the film was recently released in more theaters and is still scheduled to air on the Public Broadcasting Service in the fall.

All of which improves the chances that more young people will be exposed to the film and its lessons about basketball, recruiting, career choices, and personal responsibility, Mr. Quinn said.

Educational Emphasis

To help reach an audience that might not normally be attracted to PBS documentaries, the producers several years ago tapped the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston to come up with educational materials tied to the film.

“Fifty-three percent of high school basketball players believe they can make it to the pros,” said Art Taylor, the center’s associate director and the head of the “Hoop Dreams” outreach project. “If that is all you are thinking about and you don’t back it up, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

The film opens a window not just on basketball, but also on the struggles of two families living in poverty on Chicago’s West Side.

The Center for the Study of Sport in Society has used it at basketball camps and with playground leagues to discuss such topics as the recruiting game and how to deal with sports injuries.

Now that the film is drawing more of a nonbasketball audience, the center has devised an educational guide to prompt classroom discussions about academics, career development, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and other topics for which the film provides poignant examples.

One unit focuses on Curtis Gates, William’s older brother, whose own basketball dreams have faded, leaving him to bounce from one dead-end job to another. “Is it too late for Curtis to turn his life around?” the guide asks in a section on career planning.

The center is working on further outreach efforts for when the documentary airs on public television. Mr. Taylor said young black males are one of the hardest audiences to reach with a film or television program, “but we think basketball will be the theme that will do it.”

School Lawsuit

The film’s box-office success, although modest by Hollywood standards, is a key factor in the negative review it has received from St. Joseph’s High School.

The school in suburban Westchester, run by the Christian Brothers order, sued Kartemquin Films and New Line Cinema Corporation, the parent of Fine Line, last October. The suit claims “Hoop Dreams” presented the school and its basketball coach, Gene Pingatore, “in a false and untrue light.”

The suit in Cook County Circuit Court contends that school officials thought “Hoop Dreams” was a nonprofit educational venture and says that St. Joseph’s would not have given permission for a commercial film.

School officials have also objected to the film’s suggestion that St. Joseph’s recruits talented athletes from the inner city. Charles Lynch, the president of St. Joseph’s, said last week that because the school and the film companies were close to a settlement, he could not comment.

Mr. Quinn said Kartemquin had no idea the film would attract a commercial distributor. In his view, he said, it remains a nonprofit educational film. Mr. Quinn said the settlement likely would involve the establishment of a scholarship fund at St. Joseph’s.

The two young men depicted in the film are still pursuing their dreams, although sportswriters have speculated that the N.B.A. is beyond their grasp.

Mr. Gates is a senior at Marquette University, where he is a reserve player on the basketball team. Mr. Agee is a senior and a starting guard at Arkansas State University, where the basketball coach has barred him from giving interviews because of the negative impact the publicity reportedly has had on his studies.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 15, 1995 edition of Education Week as ‘Hoop Dreams’ Guns for Academy Award Long Shot

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center Higher Student Morale Linked to In-Person Instruction, Survey Shows
Educators see student morale rising since last spring, according to a new EdWeek Research Center survey.
4 min read
Second-grade students raise their hands during a math lesson with teacher Carlin Daniels at Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden, Conn., Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Second grade students raise their hands during a math lesson in Meriden, Conn., Sept. 30.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
School Climate & Safety Law Against 'Disorderly Conduct' in Schools Led to Unfair Student Arrests, Judge Rules
The South Carolina ruling is a model for other states where students are still being arrested for minor incidents, an attorney said.
6 min read
Scales of justice and Gavel on wooden table.
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock
School Climate & Safety A Rise in School Shootings Leads to Renewed Calls for Action
A return to in-person learning means a return to school shootings, advocates warn.
5 min read
Families depart the Mansfield ISD Center For The Performing Arts Center where families were reunited with Timberview High School Students, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Mansfield, Texas. Police in Texas have arrested a student suspected of opening fire during a fight at his Dallas-area high school, leaving four people injured.
Families were reunited Oct. 6 in Mansfield, Texas, after a student opened fire at Timberview High School in Arlington, leaving four people injured. Data show that the start of this school year has been particularly violent compared to previous years.
Tony Gutierrez/AP
School Climate & Safety TikTok Challenge to Slap a Teacher Prompts Urgent Warning
The slapping challenge, which so far has not been widespread, has put educators across the country on alert.
Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times
3 min read
The icon for TikTok pictured in New York on Feb. 25, 2020.
The icon for TikTok pictured in New York on Feb. 25, 2020.
AP