I'm so glad that Ruby Rich acknowledges the optimistic heart of Ward Serrill's The Heart of the Game. "It's being described as a hoop dreams for girls, but I don't think that's fair to it. …It's not just about basketball and the individual experience of poverty. It's much more about the intense pressure of gender socialization and the amazing display of what happens when you begin to undo it."
As disinterested as I am in team sports generally, I really loved The Heart of the Game. I am impressed with Serrill's devotion to the film's premise, that he spent six years following the rise of the Roughriders, an all-girl Seattle basketball team. His editing is lean and tight as he adeptly abbreviates the various seasons of the team—their wins, their losses—and builds the film's momentum even as relationships are established between coach Bill Resler ("Santa Claus in Birkenstocks") and the team's key players, notably Darnellia Russell, whose talent and perseverance against increasingly unfair odds are sure to inspire sports enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. Resler's ingenuity in providing inspirational guidance to his players—either through offering driving metaphors ("You're a tropical storm! You're a pack of wolves! You're a pride of lions! You're a school of piranha! DRAW BLOOD!") or bringing in senior citizen Maude Lepley, one of the original girl basketball players, to talk to her young cohorts—is near to genius. I was biting my fingernails as the Roughriders took it to the hoop. This, hands down, has been my favorite film yet from this year's festival!