Acclaimed documentary from first time director Ward Serrill that follows a high school girls basketball team and their unconventional coach Bill Resler over a seven-year period.
The story begins with Resler’s first season in charge of the Roosevelt Roughriders, an underperforming all-white team from an affluent Seattle neighbourhood. Over the years he turns them into a crack unit, likening his players to a pack of wolves who he tells: “sink your teeth in their necks! Draw blood!” during games.
The tactic begins to work and the Roughriders soon become one of the top teams in the State, but they are still missing one crucial ingredient … Enter Darnellia Russell, a poor black girl from a troubled background who takes them all the way to the State final against bitter local rivals the Garfield Bulldogs.
Billed as a female version of Hoop Dreams, this riveting underdog story follows a familiar Hollywood pattern.
The struggling team brought together by a maverick coach, the star player overcoming obstacles in her personal life, and a final showdown with a rival team that have hammered them in the past. But what sets The Heart of the Game apart is that it is a true story featuring real girls that are completely unrecognisable from the array of fake-breasted beauties we normally see in teen flicks.
After a heavy session in the gym one of the players, who looks like she has never even heard of make-up, says "We might not be able to win every match, but if we get into a fist fight we will".
So why isn’t it destined to be a classic like Hoop Dreams? Director Ward Serrill lacks focus at the start of the movie, wasting time on minor players who play no part in the final games.
This time would have been spent better getting to know more about the central character, Darnellia, who remains something of a closed book throughout. There are virtually no reflections on the difficulties she has faced, and we discover little to nothing about her boyfriend who plays a crucial part in the latter half of the story.
There is also a lack of information on coach Resler, and it would have been interesting to see how the all-consuming job had impacted on his personal life – all we discover is that he was divorced at some point and later remarried.
The Heart of the Game addresses some key issues such as race and class, slam dunks modern society’s gender stereotypes, and raises some interesting questions about the different attitudes to sport here and in the States.
Staring: Chris “Ludacris” Bridges
Directed by: Ward Serrill