Hoop Dreams is a film about young men with promising futures in basketball. Futures that promise to be one of the few pathways to hope for young men who come from their circumstances. Arthur Agee and William Gates, the young black men in question, come out of Chicago and are really quite good at the game, but as Agee's mother says about single mothers like her: the system doesn't care.
And that's where Hoop Dreams does something bigger than it's originally intended 30 minute documentary on street ball could have ever hoped. While it may just be the fact that I was 9 at the time it came out, but that particular time in America basketball seemed more popular than any other in my life: the Bull's heyday, the 1992 Dream Team sweeping the olympics, heck, NBA Jam had just come out. Basketball, perhaps particularly Chicago ball, was in the zeitgeist. Hoop Dreams tapped into that, then took its audience to unexpected places and challenged them for how they treated the people who produced this thing they liked. Often filmmakers Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert do so subtly, and others it does so in no uncertain terms.