March 22, 2007

The Heart of the Game (and the bigger picture, too)


Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

Garnering a bevy of swell reviews, the documentary The Heart Of The Game still managed to fall between the cracks with movie-goers during its quick theatrical release last year. Take advantage of the DVD opportunity to discover a fascinating and genuinely uplifting story about a new girl's basketball coach and the team and star player he helps bring to fruition. Director Ward Serrill manages to delve into things without making you feel like a voyeur or some scuzzy, gimme-all-the sordid-details, Court-TV camp follower. The documentary does open up some difficult subjects but Serrill's handling of these seems decent and honest. Even better, he raises important questions for which neither he nor life provides easy answers. You'll have to decide some things for yourself--why, for instance, does the coach insist on giving the team such aggressive, go-for-the-kill themes such as a marauding wolf pack that decimates its victims?

Considering everything that happens here, the director's restraint is surprising and laudatory. Instead of some mindless feel-good finish, the movie leaves you feeling positive, sure, but also aware of the larger picture and its importance to the lives on view. Basketball can be great fun (not to mention the discipline and life-lessons aspects), and so can the playoffs. But, as Serrill wisely shows us, they're just a part of The Heart of the Game.

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Posted by cphillips at March 22, 2007 1:26 PM

As a follow-up, for those of you who've seen this film and were wondering about Darnelia Russell, this was in the Seattle Times: (SPOILER ALERT below, too)

Q: I recently watched the DVD "Heart of the Game" about Roosevelt girls basketball and enjoyed it. What is player Darnellia Russell doing these days?

A: Russell, a star on the 2004 Roosevelt team that won the 4A state championship, is back at North Seattle Community College after being out of school for a couple quarters, according to Roosevelt coach Bill Resler.

She starred at North Seattle in the 2004-05 and '05-06 seasons.

Russell is back in school as a student, not a student-athlete. If she doesn't get her two-year degree by the fall, Resler said, she will have only one year of her four-year college eligibility remaining.

Russell's daughter, Trekayla, is 4 ½. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association challenged Russell's high-school eligibility in the championship season because she had missed a year of school because of the baby. A court order allowed her to play for Roosevelt as a senior and the WIAA dropped its case after the Roughriders won the title.

Posted by: Craig P at May 15, 2007 11:04 PM