Hoop Dreams is a documentary that depicts the lives of two young African-Americans who experience poor living conditions in Chicago ghettos and dream about playing in NBA. Arthur Agee and William Gates start studying in high school and both of them have chances to become professional players and help their families to escape from poverty. However, they both face plenty of social problems, which prevent them from the fulfillment of their dreams.
As it is known that the lives of minority groups in the ghettos were extremely poor in 1990s. Innocent civilians suffered from constant crime, limited opportunities, and absence of money. In fact, the crime rate was the major consequence of the people’s despair and hopelessness. Many African-Americans could not afford good education for their children and thus enjoyed the opportunity to become wealthy with the help of athletics. Moreover, many scientists prove the fact that black people have higher chances of achieving success in basketball due to some physiological differences.
The idea of “black superiority” in athletics made African-Americans feel that something could be changed. Therefore, the streets of ghettos were full of talented young people dreaming about future and some changes in life. They did not just dream, they believed that athletics, namely basketball, could help them to escape from poverty and other problems that were typical for the inner cities. Sometimes this belief was not their own, but imposed by the relatives. Moreover, at that time many famous African-Americans who became the idols to young people appeared and it were they who motivated boys to develop their skills and seek for the fulfillment of the dreams and wishes.
The two main characters of Hoop Dreams - Arthur Agee and William Gates are two of hundreds of young African-Americans dreaming of becoming professional basketball players. The first social problems they face are racial inequality and social mobility. They live in the ghetto and the only thing they can do is to dream about the normal life somewhere outside it. Although they realize that white people in the USA are more privileged and independent as well as have better jobs and opportunities, they are a little bit afraid of the other life they may have. For instance, when a scout looking for talented kids in urban areas of Chicago sees Arthur, he accepts him to the Saint Joseph’s High School. After that, Arthur convinces that he feels rather uncomfortable. In his former school, where only poor African-Americans studied, he considered himself as an ordinary person with equal rights. Now it seems to him that they not only look differently, but also have the other way of speaking, dressing and even walking.
However, the problem of racial inequality for Arthur is more his own than the one of the high school community. His peers accept him in a quite normal way and he get used to the new surrounding very quickly.
When the tuition increases, Arthur Agee faces another social problem, namely the lack of equal opportunities regarding education. Arthur’s parents have to work hard but still they are not able to pay their part of payment. The boy has to transfer to the free public school. The situation unsettles him as he takes one step back in achieving his main goal. In fact, such a destiny is usual for many boys found in the streets of ghettos. However, not everyone can survive after such a disappointment and, eventually, many young boys become involved in crime acts or have a drug addiction.
Good examples of desperate people are Arthur’s father and his friend Shannon. The father loses the meaning of life while Shannon does not manage to find it. As a result, they become addicted to crack as they cannot bare the realities of life. When Arthur is commenting this situation, he claims that even if he is not able to achieve his goals, he will not become a criminal. However, one can only imagine what he will do, but in reality, the situation may be completely different. Consequently, to withstand all the hazards of life, a person must have a strong will and great motivation.
Continuing speaking about education, it needs to be mentioned that it is very difficult to enter a respectable educational establishment without sport scholarship. There are many cases when young boys start to play basketball just because they want to escape from poverty but not because of the great love to the game. In other words, poor people who want to become wealthy and successful are sure that in order to achieve their goal, they have to be either well-educated or famous well-paid sportsmen. Moreover, the basketball is a key to the good education and thus to the wealthy life.
Without a doubt, those who consider the basketball to be the way to earn money do not pay attention to the fact that the schools, colleges and universities try to make more money with their help. At the same time, many devoted players are disappointed with this situation. Personally, I feel uncomfortable when the coaches depicted in the film are shouting at players and keep saying that they do not meet their expectations. It is clear that they are talking not just about expectations, but about their earnings as well. In this way, the atmosphere during such scenes is tense and there is a feeling that coaches just exploit players while capitalizing on them without thinking about people’s personalities and feelings.
As it was mentioned, some people play games because of their parents’ desire. For instance, while Arthur does not feel any pressure from relatives, William Gates feels obliged in some way. The problem is that his older brother did not manage to make the grade and it seems to William that Curtis’ aim is to achieve his goal with the help of the younger brother. Arthur, even not being under pressure, feels that he has to help his parents to escape from the poor life.
The attitude of the coaches towards players influences greatly on the performance during the game. For instance, both Arthur and William look more confident when they support the players. One example that comes to my mind is the scene in the gym, when the coach comments Arthur’s performance. As the new atmosphere among the white people is not favorable to his behavior during the game, the coach does not notice his self-confidence and aspiration. Eventually, Arthur understands that his efforts are unsuccessful and this fact makes him give up.
Thus, the negative influence of surrounding conditions and the dependence on them are other social problems of the characters in the documentary. Although these conditions are different (William has an injured leg while Arthur’s family cannot pay for tuition), they greatly influence boys’ successes and failures and change their self-concepts. This fact proves that the support shapes self-understanding and the results of the game depend not only on the player, but also on his family, coach, friends and people in the neighborhood as well.
Both characters of the documentary Hoop Dreams are strong personalities, who resolutely struggle against difficulties and numerous social problems they face. While watching the film, I feel to be an interlocutor with them and pass through their lives together with them. The movie was filming for four years and depicts nothing but real events. Therefore, the problems that Arthur and William have seem to be not just their ones. They seem to be those of many boys from ghetto, their families and the society they live in as well. Thus, the racial and social inequality, difficult social mobility, not equal access to the education, poverty and dependence upon someone’s expectation are the social problems of the whole American society, which are created by this society as well as are fixed by it. However, not all of these problems are seen in Arthur and William’s lives.
While Arthur has to transfer to the public school because of lack of money, William finds the way out as there were people who were eager to pay for him. At the same time, this problem and its solution depend upon the attitude of the people around. In this way, William meets someone’s expectations, while Arthur seems to lack confidence. While watching the film, I noticed the regret in the coach’s eyes when William has serious problems with his injured leg and loses several opportunities to win the games. The same regret appears in the coach’s eyes when he understands that Arthur performs well and can achieve more while playing in the Saint Joseph’s varsity. The problem of social mobility and racial inequality becomes less important over the time as boys understand that, in reality, race and social status do not matter if one can help someone earn money. Struggling for the hoop dreams, Arthur and William face hoop reality, which teaches us that dreaming is just dreaming. Usually, there are many problems on the way to our dreams, some of which cannot be ever solved.
To summarize, Hoop Dreams is the great documentary that teaches to struggle with difficulties and problems on the way to our goals. The creators of the movie made the film unique, which definitely has a positive effect on the audience. Two African-Americans William Gates and Arthur Agee, who are the main characters of the film, experience poverty, social and racial inequality and dream about playing in the National Basketball League. Despite the fact that their main dreams will be never fulfilled, the events depicted in the documentary are very didactic as they teach us to do everything in order to become what we want. The chance is given to everyone regardless of class and race, but not everyone is able to take advantage of it.