Through the Fire

Film
BASKETBALL DIARIES Telfair scores big.
BASKETBALL DIARIES Telfair scores big.

Time Out says

In this captivating documentary, Jonathan Hock trails hotshot Coney Island baller Sebastian Telfair during his senior year, when the charismatic point guard led his Lincoln High School team to the 2004 city championships at Madison Square Garden. But there's a lot more at stake than a trophy: Committed to coach Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville, yet lured by the prospect of sneaker contracts and untold wealth as a big-league player, Telfair faces the tough decision of whether to attend college or enter the NBA draft. With pro scouts prowling on the sidelines, Telfair's also wise to the fact that his older brother Jamel Thomas, a Big East star, failed to make the cut years before and now labors as a contract hooper in Greece.

Although Through the Fire touches on themes examined in Hoop Dreams—family bonds, ghetto aspiration, crushed hopes, an exploitative industry—Hock's film is structured as a pure adrenaline rush, savoring the emotional highs of Telfair's year of triumph with unusually visceral, nerve-jangling game sequences courtesy of embedded lensman Alastair Christopher. Candid interviews with aging street players and assistant coach Daniel Turner—Telfair's eldest brother and number-one fan—add poignancy to the story, as does the late presence of Thomas. Yet the undisputed star is Telfair himself, a charming, articulate striver well aware that basketball is "no game," but a million-dollar biz that thrives on wholesome images. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Damon Smith

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