"The great American documentary... The best film of the 1990's" - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
First exhibited at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the audience award for best documentary, Kartemquin's Hoop Dreams is the remarkable true story of two American dreamers; an intimate reflection of contemporary American inner-city culture, following two ordinary young men on the courts of the game they love.
Plucked from the streets and given the opportunity to attend a suburban prep school and play for a legendary high school coach, William Gates and Arthur Agee both soon discover that their dreams of NBA glory become obscured amid the intense pressures of academics, family life, economics and athletic competitiveness. But most importantly, both boys remain focused on their dream, no matter how hard tragedy strikes or how desperate their situation becomes. It is their faith in the game that unites their family and gives each person hope. And it is this faith that ultimately allows them to build upon their failures as well as their triumphs and make for themselves a potentially better life.
What emerges from Hoop Dreams is far more than a sympathetic portrait of two black teenagers reaching for the stars. While remaining epic in scope, it manages to be intimate in detail, chronicling the universal process of growing up, coming of age, the love and conflict between fathers and sons, brothers, best friends and spouses.
It's about success and failure not just on the court, but in school, at home, and ultimately, in society. And it does it in a way that no other film on sports has done before: it gives viewers an intimate look at the pursuit of the basketball dream while it is actually happening. Hoop Dreams won every major critics award in 1994 as well as a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995. The film earned Steve James the Directors Guild of America Award and the MTV Movie Award’s "Best New Filmmaker." Hoop Dreamswas subsequently named to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry, signifying its enduring importance to the history of American film, and has often been voted the greatest documentary of all time.
1994 Sundance Film Festival: Audience Award for Best Documentary 1994 Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Documentary 1994 Chicago Film Critics Award: Best Picture 1994 Producers Guild of America: Special Merit 1994 Academy Award Nomination: Best Editing 1995 George Foster Peabody Award 1995 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award National Society of Film Critics: Best Documentary New York Film Critics Circle: Best Documentary Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary National Film Registry In 2007, the International Documentary Association named Hoop Dreams as its selection for the all-time greatest documentary
Steve James is recognized as one of the most acclaimed documentary filmmakers of his generation. His film "Hoop Dreams" was nominated for an Academy Award ® for Best Film Editing and recently selected for the Library of Congress National Film Registry. James' "Stevie" (2002) -- winner of the Sundance Film Festival Cinematography Award and IDFA Grand Jury Prize; the Independent Documentary Association Award-winning miniseries The New Americans; Tribeca Film Festival Grand Prize winner "The War Tapes" (2006), which James produced and edited; "At the Death House Door" (2008), co-directed with Peter Gilbert; "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson" (2010) -- for ESPN's Peabody winning 30 for 30 series; and "The Interrupters" (2011) -- which won an Emmy, Independent Spirit Award, and the DuPont Columbia Journalism Award. James' "Life Itself" (2014) was named the best documentary of the year by over a dozen critics associations, Rotten Tomatoes, the Critics' Choice Awards, the National Board of Review, and the Producers Guild of America and was nominated for Emmy awards. James has also directed "Prefontaine" (1997) and numerous other documentaries and short films throughout his career. His current projects include "Generation Food," with author Raj Patel that looks at solutions to fixing the broken global food system, and To Bridge the Divide, a series that follows the stories of a dozen students grappling with how to address what is commonly called a "racial achievement gap."