Movie Magazine International

Soul in the Hole

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

The documentary "Soul in the Hole" will inevitably be compared with "Hoop Dreams," the shoulda-been-nominated for an Academy Award documentary from several years back. But while "Hoop" showed the commercial value society assigns to athletes, "Soul" shows the value that the athletes place on themselves. That value doesn't spring just from how well they play, but from a jumble of athletic prowess and the culture of poverty and hopelessness from which they spring. But don't confuse economic hopelessness with despair. This documentary shows a world of joy, the delight in the everyday and the people along for the ride.

It also shows that the problems that do arise are too complex for the quick fix solutions so popular with politicians.

The film centers on Ed Smith, known as Booger, and the man who took him in when he had no place to go, Kenny Jones. Kenny sponsors the Kenny's Kings, an inner-city league basketball team and Booger is his star player. He's also Kenny's shot at saving at least one kid that society has thrown away.

Not that Kenny is under any illusions about Booger. He loves the kid but he's quick to tell us that if Booger's awake, he's lying. As for Booger, he tells us that his dream is going to college. But is it his dream or is it a line that he feeds us because it's what we want to hear? That the question comes up is answer enough.

This is a kid who's been forced by circumstance to learn to be in the moment, but not in the peaceful zen sense. For Booger, to be in the moment is the result of the way life has, at every turn, let him down. Living in the moment is his strategy for not being overwhelmed with past hurts or the inevitable hurt waiting down the line. And, also perhaps inevitably, heading off disappointment, even in some twisted way, taking charge of it, by screwing up his life for himself.

Filmmaker Danielle Gardiner uses an effective, low-key style that observes minutely but unobtrusively. With it, "Soul in the Hole" shows one thoroughly decent human being doing the best he can for one kid and for his community. It also shows what unconditional love and support can't do. That's what will break your heart.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 12/31/97

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