Through The Fire

on February 10, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
Shades of the extraordinary 1994 basketball documentary "Hoop Dreams" loom over "Through the Fire," a film about the journey of Coney Island basketball phenom Sebastian Telfair. By the time this film hits theatres, audiences (those who follow basketball, anyway) will have already watched the young Telfair play his first season in the NBA with great success, making the transition directly from high school to the big time, as did the likes of Kobe Bryant, Latrell Spreewell and Telfair's own Coney Island role model and friend, LeBron James. As James was signing a $90 million sneaker deal, Telfair was announcing his intention to attend the University of Kentucky to play for starmaking coach Rick Pitino. Needless to say, that didn't happen. How Telfair comes to go straight to the NBA is the story that "Through the Fire" is made of.

Five years early, Telfair's older brother, Jamal Thomas, a Providence College graduate with NBA dreams for himself, had those dreams dashed when he was overlooked by the draft. This was a devastating blow to his parents, and now Sebastian feels the pressure to achieve the dream for his family, his coaches and an extended entourage. When two men are gunned down right outside the Telfair apartment in the projects, everything changes. Getting his family out becomes the only thing this 18-year-old boy can see.

While "Through the Fire" can't possibly carry the weight of a film like "Hoop Dreams" (which followed its subjects for five years), it's still pretty engaging stuff. Stylistically, it plays like an ESPN profile more than a serious documentary, but the issues and drama is all real enough -- and so is the big-league money. Starring Sebastian Telfair, Rick Pitino, Jamel Thomas and Dwayne "Tiny" Morton. Directed by John Hock. A Cinema Libre release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 103 min

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