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Criterion Release: Hoop Dreams

April 7, 2015

By John Corrado

Hoop Dreams Blu-rayLast week, the classic 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams was released for the first time on Blu-ray, through the Criterion Collection.  The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee throughout their high school careers, two inner-city kids in Chicago who dream of playing professional basketball, with the chance of elusive sports scholarships being the only hope their families have of finally escaping poverty.

Director Steve James shows these young men and their families through a compassionate and sympathetic lens, allowing us to become really invested in the emotional ups and downs of their lives.  Assembled from more than 250 hours of raw footage that was captured over five years, the story comes together seamlessly, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing.

Nearly three hours long, and engaging every step of the way, Hoop Dreams is an expansive and layered portrait of poverty and chasing the American Dream, that encapsulates something profound about real life, through a series of moving and inspiring scenes and perfectly captured dramatic setbacks.  For these reasons, Hoop Dreams is a landmark achievement that revolutionized documentary filmmaking, and remains one of the best ever made.  This edition provides the definitive version of the film.

The Blu-ray includes commentary tracks with the filmmakers and the two main subjects, additional scenes, archival footage of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert championing the film, and the rarely seen music video for the theme song.  There’s also the fascinating forty minute documentary Life After Hoop Dreams, which nicely shows where William Gates and Arthur Agee are now.

Hoop Dreams is 172 minutes and rated PG.

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