New Movie: Off the Rez
Another great hoops documentary from the creator of Through the Fire.
By Sam Riches
JH: I think our society as a whole is set up in a way to keep the people oppressed on the reservation and in the inner city ghettos. Geographically, psychologically, economically, the system that we operate under is set up to keep those people there while the people with the resources and the power keep what they have. In recent decades, people in the hood have been able to break out of the invisible walls that enclose the ghettos, though the odds against them are still huge. On the reservation, the invisible wall that separates them from the outside world is even more impenetrable. So to try to break out of the psychological and economic confines of the reservation is so difficult, especially if you want to do it on your own terms, without compromising who you are or what you represent. That’s what Shoni’s family was trying to do, and it was very inspiring to watch.
SLAM: How important is basketball for the youth on the reservations?
JH: On the rez, they talk about basketball as a way to battle for their tribe’s dignity. To take your best five and travel to another reservation or take on some team from the outside, that’s a tremendous source of pride for them. And it makes the game matter so much.
SLAM: Why did you want to tell this story?
JH: Partly, I wanted to shine a light on the forgotten hood. The reservation is just another manifestation of the hood in America, only it exists so far out of the light of the mainstream that people don’t know about it. I didn’t know much about it, but I was curious, and I found a family that believed in something and was trying to accomplish something I could relate to. So I just stayed with it and now, two and a half years later, we have the movie.