April 29, 2011

Off the Rez is lacking

Nice to see some critical comments about Off the Rez after all the acclaim it's received:

"Off the Rez" Inspires, Though Off the Mark

By Tara Polen[I]t is hard to gloss over what is lacking.

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 Some of this is legitimate; there are historical references to Ceci’s experiences growing up as an athlete that are doubtless true, that she was discouraged and outright denied opportunities because of her race.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.
And:[W]here is the explanation for Shoni’s eventual choice of Louisville? While building up the pressure and leading the audience along as Shoni’s college choice becomes more and more of a pressing issue (eventually she remains the last one of the top 100 ranked in her class not to have declared her intended school), the final announcement is anti-climactic.

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.
A more positive review, plus an interesting tidbit about the film's production:

Film Premiere:  Off the Rez Is Hoop Dreams Meets Glory Road

By Aron Phillips“The mother-daughter relationship is so complicated,” says Kelly Ripa, co-host of LIVE! with Regis and Kelly and executive producer of the film. While many people might see Ceci--a former high school basketball star in her own right--living vicariously through her children for the opportunities that weren’t afforded to her, Ripa notes that it becomes evident that her children are actually living through her.

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.
Comment:  I didn't know Kelly Ripa had any interest in Natives, basketball, or film production. It would be nice if she used her star power to get a few Natives on her show.

For more on the subject, see Hock on Off the Rez and Preview of Off the Rez.

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