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Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James. It follows the story of two black high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players.
Originally intended to be a 30-minute short produced for the Public Broadcasting Service, it eventually led to five years of filming and 250 hours of footage. It premiered at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. Despite its length (171 minutes) and unlikely commercial genre, it received high critical and popular acclaim. It was on more critics’ top ten lists than any other film that year, including Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Heavenly Creatures and Quiz Show.
As of July 1, 2008 it had earned over $7.8 million, making it the tenth-highest-grossing documentary film in the United States (in nominal dollars, from 1982 to the present)
The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American teenagers who are recruited by St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominantly white high school with an outstanding basketball program. Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices, and acclimating to a foreign social environment, Gates and Agee struggle to improve their athletic skills in a job market with heavy competition. Along the way, their families celebrate their successes and support each other during times of hardship.
The film raises a number of issues concerning race, class, economic division, education and values in contemporary America. It also offers one of the most intimate views of inner-city life to be captured on film. Yet it is also the human story of two young men, their two families and their community, and the joys and struggles they live through over a period of five years.