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The Heart of the Game

Girl Power!

Directed by Ward Serrill and narrated by the rapper Ludacris, The Heart of the Game, a documentary which follows a girls high school basketball team over seven years, is one of the best sports movies ever made. Essentially, it is the story of a coach, Bill Resler, and his players', the Roosevelt Roughriders, endless fight to win the State championship. But -- obviously -- it's about a lot more.

You meet the team during a time of transition. Resler who teaches tax law and who also happened to have two daughters who attended Roosevelt High School, situated in an upper middle class area of Seattle, is asked to come on as the team's new coach. He accepts and brings his decidedly unconventional tactics along with him. Such tactics include having the team picture themselves as various bloodthirsty carnivorous animals; it switches from season to season. For example, one year he christens the team as a pack of wolves and uses hunting analogies to describe their plays and visualize their tactics. Their chant of choice before getting out on the court: Draw Blood! Not exactly what an opposing team wants to hear before a game. Regardless of the means, his first season coaching the team makes it to State and Resler is recognized as Coach of the Year.

While he has transformed the team, the State championship seems to be just out of their reach. Enter Darnellia Russell. Russell is a young basketball star with enormous potential who, as you follow her during her years with the Roughriders, faces a major obstacle in her career path to play pro-ball. Her story is the stuff of Disney films.

The Heart of the Game is heartwarming yet not saccharine. This is no big budget Hollywood production with sappy, scripted lines and musical cues to illicit emotional responses. It is the real thing. It's difficult to believe that this is Serrill's first film; it's very well made. The editing is on point and there is a good mix of interviews and game footage. Serrill paces the film perfectly, especially the game scenes, which he builds up to create just the right amount of tension. As a result, there are points where you will be on the edge of your seats.

Darnellia had many chances to give up and call it quits, but she never stopped pursuing her dreams. The Heart of the Game sends out an amazing, inspiring message to all young women, to all young people, and indeed to all people everywhere: never give up

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars