Review of More Than a Game directed by Kristopher Belman
My goal with this blog has been to help bring attention to books, films, and documentaries that don't always get a lot of attention. If I get just one person to see this film after reading about it here, then I will have accomplished this goal. This is a superb film from start to finish. Hollywood can spend gazillions of dollars cranking out mind numbing films like the Transformers movies and the countless superhero flicks, but I'll take a good documentary like this over those time-wasters anytime.
This is a film that took seven and a half years to make and over ten years to play out. It's the story of four black youths who come together on and off the basketball court. And one of the four happens to be LeBron James.
While Lebron is a part of this film, he is by no means the main focus. The film covers five players and two coaches. It covers an amazing journey that began before the four main players were in high school. Watching this film is a lot like watching the journey of an American Idol contestant who comes from nowhere and gains success and notoriety. Only in this case it is a much longer climb out of obscurity.
The film began as a school project for writer director Kristopher Belham. His initial idea was to make a ten minute film as part of a class he was taking on documentary film making. He came into the project at a time when the high school basketball team for St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron Ohio was expecting to make a run for the national title. He was intrigued by the idea that four of the players had played together before high school. Fortunately for us, he decided to stick around longer than the one day he had originally planned.
One of the things that makes this film so unique is that the filmmakers were able to track this supernova at a time when it was just another cold star among millions. Who knew that someone with a film camera filming a bunch of ten-year-olds playing basketball would be capturing history in the making. Take tons of archival footage, plenty of well edited, 3d shot images, and updated interviews with the main characters reflecting back on their meteoric rise, and what you get is a compelling story with all the ups and downs of any great narrative.
Having conducted plenty of interviews myself, I can attest to how difficult it is to get everything you need in one interview. But in this film the entire story unfolds in what seems like just one or two interviews of the main characters. The integration of the interview material with the archival footage is seamless. One of the interesting comments from director Kristopher Belman was how his role as a director and filmmaker grew along with the rise of the players and coaches. His experience and expertise mirrored their growth.
I can't finish this post without mentioning the names of the individuals whose stories are told. They are LeBron James, Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Romeo Travis, and Coach Dru Joyce II. You'll have to watch the film to learn about all of their stories. But I did want to single out one of them. The one player who stood out for me was Dru. here is a kid who had as much talent as leBron, but was missing one thing he couldn't control – his height. Basketball is a game for six-footers. Despite his diminutive size, however, there's no question that they could not have accomplished what they did without his participation.