Heart of the Game
Photos and Video
This isn't your mother's high school basketball. The girls of the Roosevelt High Rough Riders slam into the other team, take elbows in the face, and foul their opponents just as aggressively as their male counterparts. Part Hoop Dreams, part Girlfight, The Heart of the Game follows the Roosevelt High Roughriders for seven seasons as Coach Bill Relser takes a team that nobody considered a threat and turns them into the team to beat in Seattle. When Darnella Russell shows up at predominantly white Roosevelt, the team's level of play goes through the roof. Despite her struggles in class and in the locker room at her new school-all her childhood friends attend the cross-town rival Garfield High Bulldogs-Russell is undeniably a star and has a stack of letters from colleges to prove it. But the story really turns on the team culture built by Coach Relser who looks more like Santa Claus than Phil Jackson. While he employs a new and generally carnivorous metaphor for each season (wolves, lions, and such), he also fosters the "inner circle," which is the team itself-no coaches and no parents. It is the inner circle that decides to stand by Russell when she is ruled ineligible to play. The twists and turns of both Russell's and the team's fate seem linked not only to their level of play but the rules that girls must play by off the court. Ward Serrill has crafted a nail-biting doc that keeps us wondering if this team can go all the way. And, if they do, will it ultimately be enough?
Director's Statement Collapse
The first time I entered Roosevelt High School's gym I knew I had a story on my hands. I saw girls crashing and bashing into each other, knocking each other to the floor and laughing about it. There was lots of laughter. I had also stumbled into a working-class character, a true court jester and a genius at basketball, coach Bill Resler. A college tax professor by day, Resler had a distinct talent at getting girls to work thier asses off and have fun while doing it. Resler and the Roughriders took me on a seven-year magic carpet ride.
When Darnellia Russel walked into the gym one day, I remember saying to myself, "I've been waiting for you." Her street-smart confidence and quiet defiance captivated me. When I saw her God-given basketball skills, I knew my second main character had arrived. On the one side, there was this tough inner-city kid hell bent on quitting the almost all-white school she had been sent to; and on the other side, there was a portly unorthodox coach whose main interest was helping Darnellia make her life better and become a team leader.
At its deepest, The Heart of the Game is about the team, and about how girls pull together as one to help one another out. It is about never giving up and taking that next step forward, however difficult or frightening. And, how each step might just culminate in some triumphant moment that we couldn't see if we had not persevered in that path.
Film Information Collapse
[HEART] | 2005 | 98 | Documentary Feature
Foreign Title: (The Heart of the Game)
Premiere: New York
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Ward Serrill is a former business executive whose mission as a filmmaker is to tell stories that heal and inspire. He was the executive producer of the film Wild America: Protecting the Lands Explored by Lewis and Clark, which was narrated by Sissy Spacek and used nationwide by the Sierra Club. Serrill also codirected and produced Building One House, which was narrated by Robert Redford and landed the film's central character on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Serrill's film Esther Shea: The Bear Stands Up was broadcast on Alaska Public Television and nationally on numerous PBS stations.