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Through the Fire (Unrated)

Release Date: February 10th, 2006 (IFC Center) by Cinema Libre Studio.
Directed by Jonathan Hock.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Sebastian Telfair, a Lincoln High School basketball player who made it into the NBA.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Through the Fire provides a straight-forward look at Sebastian Telfair’s rise to fame from his poor home in Coney Island to the NBA. What’s so special about him? He’s an excellent basketball player who has been trying hard to get recognized since the age of six. Finally, he has the chance in his senior year at Lincoln High School. Even though hundreds cheer him on to get drafted, the real conflict comes when he arrives at a fork in the road: either go to college to get an education and practice his basketball skills more, or immediately join NBA. Director Jonathan Hock includes interviews with Telfair as well as footage from his basketball games and how he promoted his image through power media outlets, such Sports Illustrated. Some of the basketball footage looks shaky, which feels slightly nauseating and hard-to-follow. The interviews with Telfair often show his charming personality and occasional shyness, but nothing more. There isn’t enough footage of his private life to really make this a compelling documentary. It’s difficult to get to know the real Sebastian Telfair when he’s outside the court and out of the limelight. Without a more interesting approach, there’s really not much that’s truly memorable besides the image of Telfair’s trademark smile.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Often in our lives, there are some choices that must be made—like Forrest Gump’s “box of chocolates”. No matter how tempting, every choice has an opportunity cost. When Telfair makes the decision to join the NBA immediately, he obviously gets tempted by money and fame. The cost of that choice was the lack of a proper education. It’s not always a good idea to rush into every tempting choice, but sometimes it’s beyond your control. Little does he know that he’s not prepared for all the forthcoming pressure and competition. Even a trip to Greece to clear his mind doesn’t help much. Unfortunately, the interviews with Telfair simply lack depth and insight. Stronger, more fascinating questions would have yielded stronger, more fascinating answers. Ultimately, you’re left with an empty feeling as if Hock were too scared to go deeper, or “through the fire”, into Telfair’s life.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Dull interviews with not enough insight.


IN A NUTSHELL: Mildly entertaining, but too straight-forward and often dull.


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