Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James. It follows the story of two Chicago, Illinois high school students 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 5 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.
The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American kids who are recruited to 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 5 years.
Hoop Dreams received an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing, but was not nominated for Best Documentary. This omission caused considerable controversy at the time.
- Sundance Film Festival: Audience Award for Best Documentary
- Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Documentary
- National Society of Film Critics. Best Documentary
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Documentary