Documentary filmmaker Steve James is no stranger to sports. Rising to fame in 1994 with his critically hailed documentary Hoop Dreams, James has gone on to direct and produce a wide assortment of sports-related films — both features and documentaries.
His latest, No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, is part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series of documentaries celebrating the sports network’s 30th anniversary.
The film chronicles James’ exploration into a dark moment in the history of his hometown — namely the February 14, 1993 bowling alley brawl that landed future basketball star Allen Iverson in jail and cast doubt on just how far racial tolerance had come in Hampton, Virginia.
Then 17 years old, Iverson found himself in the epicenter of a racial tsunami — where an unfair trial and unclear judicial motivations spawned nearly two decades of conspiracy theories — after a group of white and black teenagers got into a fight.
When punches were thrown and chairs began to fly across the bowling alley, a white girl was injured in the scuffle and Iverson and three of his friends faced criminal prosecution and jail time.
Using interviews with Hampton residents, archival footage of Iverson and James’ own socio-commentary, the filmmaker shines a light on the incident that still divides his childhood home.
While there are no fresh interviews with Iverson, the documentary does an excellent job of setting the stage for the story’s main conflict and showcasing just how much the almost twenty-year-old incident still affects the town.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a real big sports guy. I think the last time I saw a basketball game was in the movie Space Jam. Even still, I enjoyed the documentary and was fascinated by the racial division that was chiseled into a town’s legacy by a single fight.
While I could have possibly done with a little less of James’ need to insert himself into the story, I respect the man for wanting to make the documentary a personal tale — even if he wasn’t even living in Hampton during the time of the incident.
If you’re a fan of sports or just looking for a tightly constructed documentary, you could do worse then watching No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson.
Category: Spotlight Premieres Director: Steve James Showtimes: Friday, March 19 at 2:45 PM at G-Tech
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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit www.sxsw.com/film.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.