"Off the Rez" Inspires, Though Off the Mark
By Tara Polen
The film takes some its gravitas from the accusation of discrimination against Native Americans. Some of this is legitimate; there are historical references to Ceci’s experiences growing up as an athlete that are doubtless true, that she was discouraged and outright denied opportunities because of her race.
But the notion that Shoni continues to face discrimination as a Native American—that accusation falls short in the film. The only examples given are weak: supposedly biased calls by referees during games, or implied excess physicality from opposing teams, these are not enough to make the point. Any fan of basketball knows that these are regular occurrences in any game anywhere across the country—at all levels of play.
We are simply told during Shoni’s high school graduation ceremony that she will go to Louisville; there is no elucidation, no further understanding for the viewer.
Film Premiere: Off the Rez Is Hoop Dreams Meets Glory Road
By Aron Phillips
While the basketball highlights are incredible--Shoni finished her senior year averaging 29.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 5.5 steals along with 2,120 points for her career, ranking her sixth on Oregon’s all-time scoring list--it’s the story that keeps you glued to the screen. As so many people before her were said to be “conditioned to fail,” Shoni becomes larger than the game she loves; a symbol for her teammates, her family and Native Americans all over. A modern-day Jackie Robinson.
For more on the subject, see Hock on Off the Rez and Preview of Off the Rez.