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The Heart of the Game

New York Premiere

USA | 98 MINUTES | English |


Sports, Documentary

This isn't your mother's high school basketball. The girls of the Roosevelt High Rough Riders slam into the other team, take elbows in the face, and foul their opponents just as aggressively as their male counterparts. Part Hoop Dreams, part Girlfight, The Heart of the Game follows the Roosevelt High Roughriders for seven seasons as Coach Bill Relser takes a team that nobody considered a threat and turns them into the team to beat in Seattle. When Darnella Russell shows up at predominantly white Roosevelt, the team's level of play goes through the roof. Despite her struggles in class and in the locker room at her new school-all her childhood friends attend the cross-town rival Garfield High Bulldogs-Russell is undeniably a star and has a stack of letters from colleges to prove it. But the story really turns on the team culture built by Coach Relser who looks more like Santa Claus than Phil Jackson. While he employs a new and generally carnivorous metaphor for each season (wolves, lions, and such), he also fosters the "inner circle," which is the team itself-no coaches and no parents. It is the inner circle that decides to stand by Russell when she is ruled ineligible to play. The twists and turns of both Russell's and the team's fate seem linked not only to their level of play but the rules that girls must play by off the court. Ward Serrill has crafted a nail-biting doc that keeps us wondering if this team can go all the way. And, if they do, will it ultimately be enough?