"THROUGH THE FIRE"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment/ESPN
Directed by: Jonathan Hock
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You should know before we go any further with this review that I’m not a sports fan. Never have been – not even back in the 80s when my home-town heroes the Cleveland Browns were (almost) unstoppable. Sure, I’ll cheer for the home team, but I really don’t care about sports. My wife loves it.
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So, it’s easy to understand why a film strictly about sports – especially about the most boring professional sport I know of – doesn’t really strike my fancy.
“Through the Fire” is a movie for basketball lovers. It’s not something that I’m gonna like – no matter how good it is. So take everything I say from this point forth with a grain of salt.
“Through the Fire” chronicles the early career of high school basketball phenom Sebastian Telfair as he struggles with the decision to play in college or go pro. It begins with his family in the Coney Island ghetto where he grew up. As his neighbors point out, kids are given basketballs in their cribs. It’s a survival instinct, for many the only escape from poverty they can see.
After Telfair’s older brother moved up through the basketball ranks but was eventually snubbed in the NBA draft, his family was devastated. However, with a brood of young basketball players growing up in the home, Sebastian was their new hope. We watch as Sebastian plays his senior year of high school ball, is wooed by the press and declares his intention of going to Louisville. However, with the NBA draft coming soon, he has some decisions to make.
As a documentary, “Through the Fire” is competently done. It gives a ground-level look at a young man’s struggle to balance education and a career. It also shows the unbelievable pressure that is put upon him to become an NBA star and provide for his family.
I have no issue with how this film is assembled. I have a problem with the whole outlook on the subject matter. It’s a scary world when families rely on their children to bring home the bacon with a Nike deal and an NBA paycheck. For the vast majority of folks living in the ghetto with basketballs in baby cribs, they’d be better off buying a lottery ticket.
Some might say that this is a powerful film showing Sebastian follow his dream, but I disagree. This is Sebastian fulfilling his family’s dream. Oh, there’s no doubt the guy loves the game, and there’s no doubt that he’s got game. But watching his family circle like a flock of vultures over his hopeful NBA career is a bit distasteful for me.
But that’s probably my indifference to basketball talking. Like I said, if you love the game – of if you are a big fan of Sebastian Telfair – it’s definitely worth checking out. You’ll see a side of basketball that often goes unrevealed.
The DVD comes with a boatload of special features, including a director’s commentary and extended interviews with key figures of the film. There’s other behind-the-scenes segments featuring the neighborhood court basketball games and numerous deleted scenes. Finally, there’s a Q&A wrap up from the Tribeca Film Festival, where “Through the Fire” debuted.
I wish the best for Sebastian Telfair and his family. Sadly, though, I understand that in the world of professional ball, he’s not through the fire. The fire is just beginning.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.78:1). French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.